Pilots steer past Lions, 10-6
Denton drives in three runs
True Grit: Savis, Kolczak, Stanley
WAXAHACHIE, Texas -- Combat scars are never pleasant. Going against the flow with a resisting effort comes with a cost. And reaching goals come with built-in obstacles for most.
A season-long rebuilding program by new Head Coach Jonathan Shockley has seen the Kansas native steer the compass of the Southwestern Assemblies of God University baseball team towards the north.
Saturday’s 10-6 setback to the #2 ranked team in the NAIA, LSU-Shreveport (30-3 record), revealed a developing grit and desire to compete with the best. The Pilots, who’ve averaged over 41 wins in six straight seasons, had to gut-out each of the three wins in the sweep.
The Lions, enduring the loss of a pair of pitching aces at the start of the season, countered by developing a staff that has proven competitive. Two solid catchers and a dynamic middle-infield combination, coupled with a rock solid centerfielder have anchored a clearly better defensive squad.
Coach Shockley’s would-be Jungle Kings can show the battle wounds they’ve received as a result of pursuing goals never before achieved at 1200 Sycamore. Understandably, the progress hasn’t come without some disappointments along the way, but this group remains in the fray, moving forward!
Pitching Staff takes on the nation's best
John Savis (Canton, Tx / Canton HS) is an embodiment of the struggle to rise from the canvas. The sophomore right-handed pitcher is fearless.
After missing last year while recovering from Tommy John elbow surgery, and he has a huge, six-inch scar to show for it, his resolve is stronger than ever.
He pitched into the fifth inning against one the nation’s top offenses, surrendering more runs and walks than desired.
But he declined to acquiesce to a team that has a collective .350 team batting average, third best in the country, and who lead the nation in runs per game at 9.5.
Savis threw 109 pitches and gave up 11 hits and six walks. One thing he did not give was ‘up.’
Unrelenting, Savis fought on as though he could prove it possible to stack bobcats in a burning barn.
The Pilots managed enough runs against him to withstand a SAGU bid to rally. They just could not knock him out. Through five innings LSUS left 11 runners on base, stranding them loaded twice as Savis fought to get off the hook.
Effective Relievers: Feared Beard, Stanley Steamed
Following his tenacious battle were two senior relievers; Tim Kolczak (San Antonio, Tx / F.E.A.S.T., Taft HS) and Chris Stanley (Harker Heights, Tx / Harker Heights HS).
The pair is as tough as a thirty-cent steak. Kolczak, a former U.S. soldier who can make you see stars – physically or in his patriotic spirit, and Stanley, who has enjoyed releasing a pent-up fireball.
Kolczak pitched until the seventh, surrendering two hits and no earned runs. His slider was working, coaxing grounders and lazy flies. Stanley steamed through the last three innings, striking out six, allowing two hits and no runs.
“Stan was just mixing up his pitches really well,” Kolczak, SAGU’s version of Brian Wilson (SF Giants), said. “He kept them off balance. You can't blow it by those guys so you have to keep them guessing. Every one of their hitters was a table setter, so keeping them off the bases is tough.”
Lions score six runs against LSU's 2.00 ERA
Meanwhile, the SAGU offense doggedly went through five LSUS pitchers while collecting nine base hits. The team scored in four innings, including a pair in each the fourth and sixth frames. They could’ve done more but left nine on base.
No hit through three innings, they busted loose for two scores on three hits.
Ben Chavez (Roswell, NM / NM Military Institute, Gateway Christian HS) ripped a single to right and Enrique Rodriguez (Ft. Worth, Tx / Ranger JuCo, Nolan Catholic HS) walked. Jared Denton (Mission, Tx / Sharyland HS), who had another productive day, pounded an RBI shot to center.
Kevin Barnes (Weatherford, Tx / Brewer HS) ran for Denton, promptly advancing into scoring position by swiping second. He danced home when Taylor Froelich (Lee's Summit, Mo / Lee's Summit West HS) sent a drive to right.
The Lions failed to cash in on Adam O’Banion’s (Peoria, Az / Raymond S Kellis HS) one out double to left the following inning.
Rodriguez, a freshman hulkster, was plunked by a pitch in the sixth. After moving ahead on a wild pitch, he trotted home when Denton singled to leftfield.
Mario Mendoza (Ft. Worth, Tx / Grambling State Univ, Poly HS), running for Denton, sprinted to third when Froelich (FRAY-lik), hitting behind the runner, lined a single to right.
Making his own lightning, Mendoza stunned the Pilots when he sped home between pitches by pilfering the plate. It was SAGU’s fourth run.
Denton and Froelich, sophomore catalysts whose productivity keeps in the line-up, were at it again in the eighth. With Denton on base again, Froelich advanced Denton’s pinch-runner, Mendoza, to second with a ground ball to second.
Barnes drove in Mendoza when he poked a hit to right with two outs.
The Lions final run scored after O’Banion walked and Dustin Jett (Patterson, La / Patterson HS) singled to left. Robert Elles (Red Oak, Tx / Tyler JuCo, Red Oak HS) loaded the bases with a single up the middle with one out.
With two outs, both on strike outs, Denton’s hot grounder was turned into a fielder’s choice, as O’Banion scooted across the dish.
Denton finished with two hits and three RBI (runs batted in). Froelich was the only other player with a crooked number in the hit column, rapping a pair to go along with an RBI.
The Lions return to action on April 10 when they play a 1:00pm doubleheader at Dallas Christian College, likely at Reverchon Park.
SAGU’s next home series is on April 13-14 against the University of the Southwest.