Baseball: On the Hill, On Top of Their Game
Pitchers Shine in Split with Crusaders
WAXAHACHIE, Texas -- A year ago the bullpen was under siege. So far this season they've been using an age-old motto from successful businesses: "Under Promise, Over Deliver."
The Southwestern Assemblies of God University baseball team, thanks in large part to outstanding pitching, earned a split of a doubleheader with Dallas Christian College on Tuesday afternoon. The games were played on the SAGU practice field due to unplayable conditions at Revechon Park in Dallas, where the twinbill was originally scheduled.
Thanks largely to solid pitching; the Lions earned a 2-1 win in the second game, after coming up short in the first game by the same score. SAGU is now 3-2 on the season.
Last spring the Lion pitchers were young and missed out on much of the valuable non-conference experience due to a dozen games that were cancelled due to weather conditions. Once they began facing the big bats in the Red River Athletic Conference, the green hurlers didn't fare very well. Opponents scored in double-figures twenty times during the 35-game season.
In five games so far this year, SAGU pitchers have yet to yield more than seven runs in a game, and the improvement shows in their average runs allowed (4.0).
"The pitching has been solid," said head coach Greg Hayes. "We did walk a few too many yesterday," he added. The weather was cold and very windy as another winter system was moving across the plains.
Hayes wanted to give part of their progress to catcher Dominic Denney (Albuquerque, NM / LaCueva HS). "I credit Dom also. He is calling a great game from behind the plate," he said of the game plans that have been drawn up. "Of course, the real test starts this weekend. We'll be playing within the conference, against deeper lineups. And our pitchers will need to throw more innings."
"It's hard to compare last year to this year," Hayes continued. "A year ago we opened against Mary Hardin-Baylor, then Northwood, and then Wiley. Those were veteran teams with big sticks. This year it's been Hillsdale and Dallas Christian. Totally different circumstances. But, so far, so good."
Can Right-handers Handle Scorpions?
This weekend the Lions play host to the University of Texas at Brownsville, the RRAC's largest school (18,000). They are currently 4-1 after dropping a game to UT-Victoria. The three game set will be played at SAGU's regular site for home games, the Waxahachie Sports Complex. (See directions to the WSC below)
The probable pitching rotation for the weekend will see Jones, a sophomore get the start in the first game at 6:00pm Friday. Michael Reeves (Ovilla, Tx / Ovilla Christian), also a sophomore, and Chris Stanley (Harker Heights, Tx / Ellison HS), a junior, are set to begin games two and three on Saturday.
It'll be a trio of right-handers trying their hand against a UTB Scorpions team that went 31-24 a year ago. They have hit .264 and averaged 5.4 runs per game to date. The Lions are swinging .259 and scoring 4.8.
SAGU Sports Weekend
|Fri, 4:00 PM||48 and Sunny||UT-Brownsville||Baseball|
|Sat, Noon||61 and Sunny||UT-Brownsville||Baseball (Doubleheader)|
|Sat, 5:30 PM||Comfy Inside||Texas College||Women's Hoops|
|Sat, 7:30 PM||Perfect for Purple||Texas College||Men's Hoops|
Tuesday's game summaries:
Game One: DCC Crusaders win on unearned run, 2-1
The 'Saders scored an unearned run in the top of the seventh inning to snap a 1-1 tie. The loss was tagged on junior reliever Tim Kolczak (San Antonio, Tx / Taft HS). He struck out two in the inning, but surrendered a walk and a hit.
Southwestern was able to get five pitchers into the game, as planned, with Jared Jones (Copperas Cove, Tx / Copperas Cove HS) enjoying another good effort.
Jones pitched a scoreless, hitless first inning. Reeves tossed two frames. Dallas Christian got to him for one run, which came on a walk and a Steve Correll double. No one else reached base against him.
A pair of lefthanders came in to pitch three shutout innings. Nic Morgan (Ft. Worth, Tx / Boswell HS) came in to throw two innings of one hit relief. He fanned two batters. Philip Heider (Malcolm, Neb / Citizens HS), a senior Cornhusker from northwest of Lincoln, took the mound for the sixth. He yielded only a single and struck out one.
The Lions scored in the fifth inning when senior designated hitter Cameron Ward (Mansfield, Tx / Grace Prep) ripped an RBI single to score sophomore Riley Hensel (Maypearl, Tx / Maypearl HS).
SAGU, who gave up only five hits, collected four themselves. Besides Ward's, the others were by junior centerfielder Justin Jett (Patterson, La / Patterson HS), senior Patrick Wherland (Petrolia, Tx / Petrolia HS) and Denney. The latter also reached base twice on walks.
Game Two: SAGU takes 2-1 win; Kolzcak saves bases-loaded jam
In the nightcap, winds picked up and temperatures dropped. Sunny skies turned grey. And the frowns of game one reversed!
Southwestern bats were alive in the early frames, building to a 2-0 lead. Leadoff sparkplug, Jett lined a single in the bottom of the first. He came around to score on an RBI double hammered deep down the leftfield line by Jared Denton (Mission, Tx / Sharyland HS). The blast landed fair by a foot, and the fleet footed and appropriately named Jett scampered across the dish.
Jones, who played third base after pitching the first game, smoked an RBI single to right-centerfield that knocked in Denney. Denney, a veteran catcher, coaxed a pair of walks in both games.
Meanwhile, SAGU pitchers and a defense that made several gems in the field, held the Crusaders at bay. A running catch in the leftcenter alley by Denton was memorable, as was a putout at first by DuJuan Prater (Copperas Cove, Tx / Copperas Cove HS) in which he dug a throw out of the dirt in impressive fashion.
On the hill, Ward, a senior southpaw, went two shutout innings to get the win. He gave up one run and whiffed two Crusaders.
Dallas Christian managed a run on a bases-loaded walk in the fourth. Stanley was touched for the run after battling the conditions, giving up two hits and three walks, before escaping further damage by holding the lead.
In the fifth, junior Trevor Schexneider (Elizabethtown, Ky / Elizabethtown HS) entered the game. The likeable lefty got into trouble when he missed on a pair of close, full-count pitches that filled the bags with 'Saders.
Schexneider (SHEX-NY-der) buckled down and got a ground ball to junior shortstop David Gomez (Arlington, Tx / Bowie HS). His throw to Prater skipped on the ground. Prater (PRAY-tuhr) nabbed the ball in his mitt like a hangar does a Learjet.
Assigned to protect a one run lead, Kolzcak got the ball in the last inning. The bearded right-hander retired the first batter before walking two consecutive players on narrow misses.
The drama intensified when the following batter ripped a single to left. As the lead baserunner bolted towards third as though he would head home for the tying run, Denton charged the ball, fielded it cleanly and came up, locked and loaded. The third base coach wisely signaled the runner to apply the brakes. Denton has an arm.
Kolczak bore down. He struck out the next batter and earned a save when he got the final batter to fly out to sophomore centerfielder Sean Armstrong (Albuquerque, NM / Manzano HS).
Clay Scarborough, the team's veteran assistant coach who handles the pitchers, was pleased with the outcome and his staff's ability to snuff out rallies.
"For two weeks we have thrown the ball well. The guys have done what is needed to give our team a chance to win," he said. "The greater challenge is doing that week in and week out." SAGU pitchers now have a combined 2.65 earned run average through five games.
SAGU stats can be accessed at www.dakstats.com/naia then go to red river, then sagu.
Directions to the Waxahachie Sports Complex
The Waxahachie Sports Complex is located on Broadhead just north of Highway 287. The park is across the street from Whataburger and the Showbiz Theatres. The diamond is to the right in the far right corner. Admission is free and facilities include concessions.