Second-inning leads became the winning strategy for Oklahoma Christian University’s baseball team as it opened its season in a four-day, four-game weekend at the Airhogs Division II Classic in Grand Prairie, TX.
The Eagles started the tournament on Thursday against Missouri Western State University, and quickly took the lead. Senior Lane Paul hit a single to right field and sent freshman Zach Morrow home in the first inning. The team then attacked with a nine-run streak in the second inning to hold a 10-0 lead going into the third.
“We had a huge second inning because we put pressure on the defense by playing some small ball and caused them to make mistakes,” senior outfielder Cory Duran said.
The Griffons managed one run in the third inning and four more in the fourth, but failed to score again for the remainder of the game. The Eagles on the other hand scored three runs in the fourth. Duran ran home on sophomore Garrett Wages’ single, then Wages and senior Chase Kuwitzsky followed on junior Jared Price’s single to shortstop. They finished the seventh inning with runs from Morrow and junior Luke Reynolds, and took an early 15-5 victory because of the “mercy rule” — when a game ends after seven innings instead of nine because one team is leading by at least 10 runs.
“We entered the game just sticking to what we’ve been working on all fall and spring, and when it came game time we just let it fly,” Duran said. “We were excited to be back out on the field and get our first win of the season. [It] felt like all of our hard work paid off.”
On Friday morning Oklahoma Christian saw the opposite side of the equation as they suffered a 4-1 loss to Washburn University. The Ichabods scored one run in the first inning and then both teams entered a scoring lull until the seventh, when the Ichabods scored two runs, followed by a final, fourth run in the eighth. The Eagles’ Morrow hit a grounder to shortstop and Price scored the team’s sole run in the bottom of the eighth.
Duran said Friday’s game’s results did not come from a lack of energy or the 43-degree weather, but from poor coincidence of where the baseball came down on the field.
“Nothing really changed, we hit a lot of hard balls just right at people and that’s how baseball goes sometimes,” Duran said. “I think we could’ve taken better advantage of some two-out opportunities, but other than that we were squaring up the ball.”
Late Saturday evening the Eagles faced Southern Arkansas University and found themselves leaving the field with a 6-0 loss.
In the nine innings of play the Muleriders scored three runs in the first inning and one run in the third, fourth and sixth, respectively. In an interview with Sports Information Director Murray Evans, Head Coach Lonny Cobble said the team played hard but couldn’t get the runners on base back to the home plate.
“We left 12 guys on base,” Cobble said. “You can’t do that and win games. We will be OK. We are hitting the ball hard but just not getting things to go our way. The good thing is it’s early and we’ll get it figured out.”
Sunday afternoon the Eagles rallied together for their final game and secured a 7-3 victory over East Central University.
Oklahoma Christian repeated its first-game winning strategy and pulled ahead of its competition in the second inning with a 5-0 lead. Sophomore Ryan Ward, senior Jake Baxter, sophomore Josh Garbrecht, Kuwitzky and sophomore Isaac Holt contributed to this early five-run jump, while Morrow rounded the bases in the fourth inning, followed shortly after by Holt. The Tigers scored on one run in the fourth, when East Central’s JT Stevenson hit a 3-run shot to left field.
Oklahoma Christian will play Oklahoma Baptist University in Shawnee, OK, on Friday at 3 p.m.
Statistics provided by the Oklahoma Christian University Sports Information Office.