The Oklahoma Christian University baseball team hit a stretch of non-conference games in the past few days, looking to right the ship after a four-game losing streak, the longest of the season.
April 5 brought a lot more than just the University of Central Oklahoma Bronchos to Dobson Field. This “cross-town showdown” meant a lot of fans, a lot of emotion and a big rivalry.
“We definitely look forward to the UCO series every year,” junior Caleb Price said. “A lot of us know some of the guys on the team so it’s a fun rivalry, but one that we really take personally.”
The Bronchos carried a 17-14 record with them to Dobson Field, while the Eagles boasted a slightly better record at 18-15.
This matchup was extremely tight coming in; the Bronchos got the best of the Eagles last season, taking two in the three game series as each game went in favor of the home team.
The Eagles ran sophomore Cale Coshow to the mound to start the game, matched by Broncho starter Mason Justice. Coshow went seven strong, allowing five hits and only one run along with a season-high nine strikeouts.
Central Oklahoma struck first with a single up the middle by Tyler Crabtree. After stealing second and advancing to third on a passed ball, Crabtree was driven home on a two-out single by Jared Wright.
The Eagles, however, answered with a big third inning. Sophomore Caden Cleveland led the inning off with a single up the middle, which was duplicated by junior Cory Eastwood.
Sophomore Jordan Lopez followed with an RBI single to left field, and junior Markus Carr delivered another RBI single to the gap in left. Senior Dillon Andrews then singled up the middle, bringing in both Lopez and Carr and giving the Eagles the 4-1 advantage.
“We got some big hits with runners on base and that is something we’ve really been looking for to start happening,” senior Evan Draper said. “We had several guys come through big for us when it counted, and that proved to be the difference in the game.”
Both pitchers would manage the next few innings unscathed, but a walk by senior Jerry Owen in the seventh would lead to an RBI single for Eastwood and give the Eagles the icing on the cake.
Senior Chris Burgess entered the game in the eighth and struck out the side. He would grab another pair of strikeouts in the ninth on his way to sealing the deal for the home team 5-1.
Eastwood led the way for the Eagles offensively, going 2-3 with an RBI. Andrews added two RBIs of his own in the winning effort.
The following day the Eagles would travel across town to do battle on the Bronchos’ home turf. Sophomore Luke Sandoval was given the start for the Eagles, paired with Jamie McClure of Central Oklahoma.
Sandoval gave the Eagles four and-two-thirds innings of work, allowing three earned runs on six hits and four strikeouts. Sandoval outlasted his counterpart who was chased after tossing three innings, allowing four hits and three runs.
The Eagles posted three runs in the top of the sixth inning to give them the 6-4 lead. Junior Blake Stringer highlighted the inning with his first home run of the season – a solo shot clearing the wall in left center.
Sophomore Kelby Reneau, who relieved Sandoval in the fifth, took care of the first two batters of the inning with ease. A walk followed by a botched pop-up behind second base served to open the floodgates for the Bronchos.
The Bronchos went on to score five in the sixth, and then added another in the seventh and a pair in the eighth to finish off the Eagles 12-6.
“We had them right where we wanted them going into the bottom of the sixth,” Price said. “We just failed to shut the door when we had the opportunity and sometimes that’s all it takes to get rolling.”
Matt Malloy finished with a pair of home runs and five RBIs to lead the Bronchos. Junior Garrett Stephenson went 2-4 with two RBIs and Eastwood added another pair of RBIs for the Eagles. Carr also went deep for the Eagles in his only hit of the day.
Tuesday morning sent the Eagles on a bus to Muskogee, Okla. to take on the No. 24-ranked Bacone College Warriors in a non-conference rematch with the former NAIA foe.
Junior Brock Werdel was given the nod for the Eagles and set to face off against Eric Aguillard of Bacone. Werdel, who went four and-a-third, allowing three runs on four hits, surrendered runs in the first, third and fourth innings respectively.
The Eagle hitters continued their struggle to push base runners across, stranding nine runners altogether. The Eagles failed to push across a run in the second inning with the bases loaded, and with two on and nobody out in the seventh, they could not cash in once again.
“The big hits that we got Friday night against UCO to score our base runners just weren’t there at Bacone,” Draper said. “When you leave that many opportunities out there, it’s really hard to beat a team no matter who they are.”
The Eagles’ lone run came in the fifth inning when Stephenson reached base on a walk. He was then advanced to second on a single by Eastwood and later scored on a groundball off the bat of Carr.
Stringer led the Eagles’ hitters, going 2-3 on the day and contributing half of the Eagles’ total hits as a team.
Werdel was credited with the loss and Aguillard the win as the Eagles fell short 3-1.
The Eagles will travel to Abilene, Texas to take on McMurray University on April 9.