Mendoza leads sweep of twinbill
SAGU takes two from Hillsdale
Mendoza fires first no-hitter in school history
WAXAHACHIE, Texas -- Mario Mendoza (Ft. Worth, Tx / Grambling State Univ, Polytechnic HS) fired a no-hitter and scored the winning run in the bottom of the seventh to cap Southwestern Assemblies of God University’s doubleheader sweep of Hillsdale College (Ok) on Saturday.
The Lions took the three-game series from the Saints to give new Head Coach Jon Shockley and SAGU a 3-0 start this season. They won the first game of the twinbill with a 10-1 rout before rallying for two runs in the last inning for a dramatic 4-3 triumph in the nightcap.
SAGU opened the 2012 campaign with a 3-1 victory on Friday night. Nic Morgan (Ft. Worth, Tx / LeTourneau Univ, Boswell HS) threw a complete-game six hitter.
After rolling to an easy 10-1 pasting of Hillsdale, in which the Saints made four errors and walked four Lions, the finale of the series was just the opposite.
In fact, neither team scored between the first and last frames, making it a bread sandwich.
But what it lacked for in crossing the plate, it more than made-up for in the bread. Even an empty Subway footlong has over 400 calories without adding a thing!
Mendoza, whom Shockley met during a tryout at Poteet High School (Mesquite, Tx) last year, appeared like the weather on Saturday, cold and wild.
Like a travel agent, he was all over the place.
Mendoza walked the first five batters he faced while airing four wild pitches. The Saints swiped a base to boot. In short, he was one hitter from getting pulled, according to Coach Shockley.
Sensing his leash was being yanked, he retired the next three batters on infield ground balls. Hillsdale parlayed his untamed start into a 3-0 lead.
The Lions struck back with a pair in their half of the inning. Dustin Jett (Patterson, La / Patterson HS) led off with a deep drive to center and motored around the bags for a triple. He trotted home on a frozen rope to right-center by freshman Rockie Davis (Santa Fe, Tx / Santa Fe HS), who was driven in when Riley Hensel (Maypearl, Tx / Maypearl HS) ripped a liner past second base.
After issuing a walk on four pitches to start the second, Mendoza found his groove. He struck out the next three batters; two of them “stood there like the house on the side of the road,” as legendary broadcaster Ernie Harwell described those who didn’t swing.
Mendoza was soon mowing down the line-up and finished with eight strike-outs. He sat down 18 of the last 19 batters he faced. In the top of the fifth he issued a one-out free pass. He coaxed the next hitter into an inning-ending 1-3-4 double-play.
Of the 26 men he faced, only two managed to hit the ball out of the infield. Jett snared a high fly to center in the sixth and Ben Chavez (Roswell, NM / NM Military Institute) gloved a short pop to right for the final out in the top of the seventh. His curveball and change-up were working like a charm the rest of the way.
“He pulled himself together,” Shockley said later. “By the third inning he was on cruise control. His curveball, once he gained control and confidence, was literally unhittable.”
SAGU played errorless ball behind the battery of Mendoza and senior catcher Dominic Denney (Medford, Or / Eugene HS, LaCueva HS).
According to longtime SAGU baseball Assistant Coach and former Sports Information Director, Clay Scarborough, Mendoza’s no-hitter was the first in school history.
The closest to achieve the pitching landmark was Cameron Ward. He tossed a one-hitter at Hillsdale in his 2008 freshman debut. Ward was on-hand at the Waxahachie Sports Complex on Saturday.
Reliving the 7th Inning Rally
Needing a run to tie, the Lions got a pair to win in the bottom of the seventh.
Hillsdale went to their bullpen after left-handed starter Jason Wilcox gave them a 3-2 lead to protect. A questionable move considering he had yielded only one hit to the previous 23 batters he faced.
Three relievers combined to walk four and give up a double. And the ballgame.
Davis greeted the first hurler by walking on five pitches. Mendoza, batting in the 3-hole, went shopping at The Gap. He ripped a deep drive between two defenders that narrowly eluded a diving leftfielder.
With first base open, a new reliever elected to pitch to Donovan Vess (Ft. Worth, Tx / Eastfield College). He pounded a 3-1 pitch to deep center that easily scored Davis as a sacrifice fly. Mendoza tagged and advanced to third.
Hoping to get out of the jam with a double play, Hillsdale gave intentional passes to Hensel and Chavo. A new pitcher, Joey Koebelen, got the call to face Denney, a seasoned lefty.
“I have real confidence in Dom,” says Shockley. “And he came through.”
Facing the right-handed sidewinder, Denney battled his way to a 2-2 count. After the next pitch sailed wide to the left, the count was loaded. The eagle-eyed Denney, who established SAGU’s all-time record for walks in a season (35) last year, stood in for the ensuing money pitch.
It was down the middle and very low and the veteran strode to first, having forced in the winning run.
“He showed his senior maturity and his nerves of steel,” Shockley recalled. “He worked the pitcher to a full count. He never flinched. After ball four our dugout roared!”
Southwestern finished with five hits, with Jett, Davis, Mendoza, Vess and Hensel, the top five in the order, collecting the base knocks. Vess had a two-out double in the fifth, but was left stranded.
First Game Review
The first game lacked drama but SAGU fans were not complaining. The Lions scored early and often in a 10-1 rout.
Combining seven hits and four walks, coupled with four Hillsdale errors, the ‘Cats vaulted to a 7-0 lead by the fourth frame.
Meanwhile, the real story was sophomore pitcher Jon Savis (Canton, Tx / Canton HS).
He missed all of last season while recuperating from Tommy John surgery on his right elbow. He went 1-4 as a freshman under Greg Hayes two year ago.
In his first game back he did very well. Savis overcame the expected early anxiousness and “threw like he never had surgery on his arm,” according to Coach Shockley. “I’m very proud of his performance!”
The former Canton Eagle went four and one-third of an inning before giving way to Trevor Schexneider (Elizabethtown, Ky / Elizabethtown HS). Savis fanned five, yielded two hits (both singles) and four walks to get the win.
Schexneider (SHECKS-nahy-duhr, like Sheck-snyder) came in with the bases loaded and one out. After an RBI single past second base, he got the clean-up hitter to bounce into a double-play. The senior righty proceeded to shut Hillsdale down in order in the sixth, the final two on strikes, the last one watching.
Closer Tim Kolczak (San Antonio, Tx / F.E.A.S.T., Taft HS) breezed through the seventh allowing a lone hit.
Mendoza and Jared Denton (Mission, Tx / Sharyland HS) were the key players at the plate. Mendoza was 3-for-4 with a double and a triple and scored thrice. He added a run batted in (RBI). Denton went 1-for-3, scoring twice and knocking in two runs.
The duo was the only Lions with crooked numbers in the production columns.
SAGU promptly put two on the board in the first. Mendoza crushed an offering to deep rightcenter for a two-bagger, driving in Jett, who had walked. Vess sacrificed him to third, where Mendoza crossed the dish on a grounder off the bat of Taylor Froelich (like FRAY-lick) (Lee’s Summit, Mo / West HS).
The Jungle Kings broke it open by tacking on four more in the third. Mendoza tripled to right and danced home on a shot near second by Vess, who promptly stole a base. Froelich stroked a single up the middle and both darted across the dish when Denton, a sophomore lumberjack, put the wood to a smash to leftfield. He scored on a Chavez grounder to second.
Mendoza singled and scored in the fourth for a 7-0 lead. After the Saints pushed a run in the book, Southwestern iced it with a three-spot in the bottom of the fifth.
Denton walked in front of Chavez, who hails from Roswell, New Mexico. The senior then sent a 2-1 pitch into orbit! He cruised into third by the time the ball was retrieved from the base of the centerfield fence. Nick Sheffield’s (Maypearl, Tx / Maypearl HS) bouncer to short was misplayed, allowing Chavo to score.
Shortstop Jacob Spivey (Georgetown, Tx / Harker Heights HS), who enjoyed a spectacular weekend anchoring down the middle along with second baseman Vess, ripped a safety to left-center. Jett narrowly missed a hit when he thumped the ball to second. The only play by Zeke Munday (2B) was a throw to first, as Sheffield rambled in to tally the tenth run.
“We were more patient at the plate in the first game,” quipped Shockley. “A majority of our hitters swung the bat very well. Mario and Chavo’s triple come to mind! Big hits! Plus, we capitalized on a couple of errors by Hillsdale.”
On Deck: 4-game homestand vs. Central Christian College
“I believe these three wins will help us carry some confidence as we roll into our next series against Central Christian next week,” Coach Shockley quipped. The Tigers, whom he coached prior to his arrival at SAGU, will play a pair doubleheaders on Friday and Saturday, Feb. 3-4 at the Waxahachie Sports Complex.
Aaron Childress took over the reins from Shockley at CCC this season. His Tigers were on the road this weekend, facing Loyola University in New Orleans.
The Friday twinbill will also be a twi-nighter, starting at 4:00pm. Saturday’s pair will start at high noon. The early forecast is calling for a partly-cloudy sky and a high of 58 with 10mph winds from the north. Saturday should be a repeat, though cooler at 51.