Photo by: Nick Conley
The Oklahoma Christian University Eagles baseball team returned to campus after an eventful weekend in south Texas.
The Eagles matched up in a three-game series against Texas A&M University – Kingsville on Friday and Saturday, squeezing in one more against Texas A&M International University on Tuesday. While the road trip yielded a 2-2 split, the Eagles accomplished much more than can be seen on a stat chart.
Senior Tyler Sturges started for the Eagles in the Friday matchup at Texas A&M – Kingsville, who would run junior Matt Rhodes to the mound to start the game.
The Kingsville Javelinas struck in the first inning with two runs on a single by junior Ryan Guedry. Kingsville would tack on two more runs in the third off of senior Chris Ballou’s home run. Ballou, who went 3-4 on the day, would drive in one more in the fourth with a double to the gap in left.
The Eagles’ only run came in the seventh inning on a RBI single off the bat of senior Evan Draper, scoring junior Sean Murphy. The Eagles were held to seven hits and stranded just as many.
Rhodes received the win for the Javelinas, striking out seven in seven innings. Sturges recorded the loss, going five innings and giving up seven hits while ringing up six. The 5-1 defeat marked the Eagles’ third consecutive loss.
Head coach Lonny Cobble alluded to a few particular shortcomings for the Eagles in the loss last Friday night.
“It’s important for us to get leadoff men on so we can play more of our game – bunts, hit and runs – which are kind of our identity right now,” Cobble said. “We are striking out way too much, and we seem to get things going late in innings after we are already down and out.”
Saturday ushered in a doubleheader between the Eagles and the Javelinas, but the results varied greatly from that of the previous day’s matchup.
Game one quickly revealed itself as a pitcher’s duel, featuring Eagles sophomore Cale Coshow and Javelina senior Zachary Pettiford. Coshow, who went six innings and surrendered one earned run on four hits, struck out four in an impressive second outing of the season. Pettiford lasted seven innings, giving up five hits, walking only one and registering one unearned run.
Coshow commented on his performance in his duel with Pettiford in game one.
“It was kind of a redemption start for me after my last outing,” Coshow said. “I’m just glad I could help my team win, and get back on the right course for the season.”
Down one run with a man on and two out in the ninth, junior Markus Carr delivered a clutch double down the line that would score junior Caleb Price and send the game to extras, tied at two apiece.
The Eagles needed only one extra inning to finish off the Javelinas in game one, receiving an RBI double off the bat of sophomore Jordan Lopez — who would later score off a hit by Price. Senior Chris Burgess closed the door on the Javelinas in the bottom of the10th, sealing a 4-3 game-one win for the Eagles.
Cobble expressed his feelings about the close first game on Saturday.
“I was proud of the way we battled,” Cobble said. “Every time we were down, our guys seemed to step up and make something happen and put us in position to win the game.”
Game two resembled the first game at the close of the fifth, with the Javelinas holding a narrow 2-0 lead. However, the Eagles exploded for five runs in the top of the sixth, and it was all Eagles for the remainder of the game.
The Eagles then topped themselves in the eighth, adding seven and bringing the score to 12-2. The Javelinas scored once in the bottom of the ninth, bringing the blowout to an end at 12-3. Senior Dillon Andrews, juniors Cody Rosecrans and Cory Eastwood and sophomore Caden Cleveland each had a pair of hits for the Eagles in game two, and the team as a whole registered 14.
Cobble keyed in on a main factor in the overwhelming success of the Eagles in game two of the doubleheader.
“I thought we did a good job taking advantage of their mistakes,” Cobble said. “They made a few mistakes and opened the door for us. However, we can’t sit around and wait for people to make mistakes.”
Tuesday afternoon took the Eagles to Laredo, Texas to square off against Texas A&M International. Junior Tyler Schumann got the start for the Eagles, who battled hard with the Dustdevils but fell just short 5-4 in yet another close game.
The loss on Tuesday brings the Eagles’ record to 3-4, but the 2-2 split of this road trip meant more for a team seeking to redefine themselves after an eight-win season last year.
The Saturday sweep of the Javelinas earned the Eagles their first road series win since 2011, when they took a pair from Rogers State University.
The Eagles have also reached another impressive milestone, picking up a vote in the newest National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association NCAA Division II South Central Region poll that was released on Monday. The Eagles now sit 14th in the South Central Region.
Senior Heath Steele acknowledged the meaningfulness of the regional ranking, but added that this team does not dwell on rankings.
“I think this is a stepping stone to the ultimate goal of becoming a top Division II program,” Steele said. “It’s a nice compliment, but rankings are not the focus of this team. All we are concerned with is being the last team standing in the NCCAA championship.”