Lions sweep; start season at 3-1
SAGU whips Hillsdale, 8-5, 7-5
Arlington Baptist visits on Tuesday at the WSC
WAXAHACHIE, Texas -- Using the timeless baseball basics of good pitching, defense and timely hitting, Southwestern Assemblies of God University swept a Saturday doubleheader from Hillsdale College, 8-5 and 7-5. It capped a 3-1 start of the 2013 season.
The new home ballfield also held up well for the wear of four games in less than 30 hours, all in damp, cold and dreary condition. A good crowd was also on hand. A cup of hot chocolate or a bowl of chili might have been as popular as jackets and hand-warmers.
Speaking of the latter, Hillsdale College assistant coach Cody Davis still has one.
While coaching third base during the first game on Saturday, Davis snared a wicked foul ball with his bare-hand. It was the catch of the weekend! He nonchalantly tossed the ball back to the pitcher, then, reportedly, avoided handshakes the rest of the day.
The Lions, who dropped the opener on Friday, 4-0, before earning a split with a 3-2 thriller, allowed four runs per game during the series. Freshmen started on the mound in the first three games, each battling jitters and the elements, gave reason for the coaching staff’s trust.
SAGU established 7-2 leads in both games on Saturday. Head Coach Jon Shockley used four pitchers in the first game and three in the nightcap; four frosh and three sophomores.
Twenty-one of twenty-nine players saw action during a series that was an important start to the 2013 campaign.
Game One – Saturday
Freshmen Garrett Thomas (Red Oak, Tx / Red Oak HS) went two-for-three and drove in three runs and Skyler Gilstrap (Smithville, Tx / Smithville HS) teamed up with three other pitchers to hold of the Saints as SAGU rolled to an 8-5 win in the opener.
Tied at 1-1 in bottom of the fourth inning, the Lions broke the game open with three runs, and then added three more in the fifth for a 7-2 margin.
After a line-shot single to left by Billy Mee (Fayetteville, NC / Copperas Cove HS), catcher Jared Denton (Mission, Tx / Sharyland HS) crushed a pitch deep to right-centerfield and motored into third with a stand-up, RBI triple.
Two batters later Denton scored on a smash grounder between shortstop and third by Thomas.
Nick Cox (Lufkin, Tx / Lufkin HS) then pounded a single through the hole on the right side to knock on Nick Sheffield (Maypearl, Tx / Maypearl HS), who aboard on a walk, giving the Lions a 4-1 lead.
The Saints threatened in the fifth. With two runners aboard, Joey Koebelen (KAY-bell-in, like cable-in) drove a long sacrifice fly to center. His throw to Denton was too late, but the junior co-captain threw to Jacob Spivey (Georgetown, Tx / Harker Heights HS) at shortstop to catch a straying baserunner.
Spivey fired to Sheffield at third to nail courtesy runner Zack Knight to end the inning.
The play sparked another 3-spot by the purple-clad hosts.
Spivey stroked a single to left and Robert Elles (Red Oak, Tx / Red Oak HS) and Denton walked to load the bases. Co-captain Sheffield forced in a run by drawing a four-pitch walk for a 5-2 lead.
The versatile Thomas, who played a few positions during the weekend series, then ripped a looping liner just over a leaping second baseman as Elles and Denton danced across the plate.
Elles knocked in Micah Thompson (Waco, Tx / Gatesville HS) with the final run in the bottom of the sixth for an 8-4 lead.
SAGU took advantage of eight walks with clutch hitting. Five batters had a single hit to support the pair by Thomas.
Gilstrap (1-0) used a mix of pitches and varied speeds to hurl four innings. He gave up a long earned run on four hits. He walked three and struck out three.
Six-foot-five freshman Nick Turley (Ovilla, Tx / Ovilla Christian) went two frames, allowing three runs, two earned.
After Montana Chitty (Lake Worth, Tx / Lake Worth HS) pitched two thirds of an inning in the seventh, the call went to closer Rockie Davis (Santa Fe, Tx / Santa Fe HS).
The bases were loaded with two outs when he faced Less Shumake, Hillsdale’s #2 batter in the order. He retired him on a soft liner to Sheffield at third. It was his first save of the season.
Davis earned a win in the second game of Friday’s doubleheader, a 3-2 triumph in eight innings.
Waiting on deck was the Saints’ toughest out, rightfielder Raul Castro, who was 3-for-4.
After splitting a twinbill on Friday, the win assured the Purple Pride of at least a split on Saturday. But they would get more in the nightcap.
Game Two – Saturday
Southwestern turned four walks, a hit batsman and three hits into seven runs in a 7-5 victory over Hillsdale College, sweeping Saturday’s doubleheader.
The big hit came early and the team had just enough pitching to hold off the Saints.
The first three Lions reached base safely. Thompson and Spivey got things started, each coaxing a base on balls, before Mee sent a frozen rope to rightfield.
Elles, one of four players from Red Oak High School, smashed a two-run shot to right. He was caught off first when Castro threw behind him from the rightfield line. A grounder to short off the bat of Denton gave SAGU a 3-0 inning.
Leading 3-2 after three, an injured Elles was pulled for Spivey. The shortstop picked up the win by blanking Hillsdale for the next two frames. He got Castro on a 6-4-3 double play in the fifth when the Lions led 7-2.
He got into trouble in the sixth. A leadoff walk and single set the table for Koebelen. He pounded a two-run double to deep left, prompting Head Coach Jon Shockley to go with Thompson.
After an infield error let in a third run, Thompson settled down. He retired the final two batters on a popped-up bunt to Denton and, with two on, struck out the next batter swinging.
He cautiously walked Castro on four pitches out of the zone, and then proceeded to ring up and set down the side. Thompson retired the next batter looking and the final two on high cheese.
He went one and two-thirds of an inning of hitless and scoreless relief, walking one and fanning four.
SAGU hosts twinbill on Tuesday
The Lions return to the field on Tuesday when they host Arlington Baptist College for two games at the Waxahachie Sports Complex. The first pitch is slated for 1:00pm.
Next weekend will feature a three-team tripleheader on both Friday and Saturday at the WSC. Arlington Baptist and Rogers State University (Ok).
The #5 ranked RSO Hillcats were 49-16 last season and were ranked #2 prior to the national tournament. This will be a great opportunity for fans to support the Lions in a huge test against a national power.
Attention Lions Fans
Follow the team on Facebook's new fan page at SAGU Baseball 2013. Thirty-one photos are posted from Friday's doubleheader. Click "Like" to receive regular updates.
Freelance photographer Steve Patterson, of Moving Pictures (his photos appear in this article), has uploaded 142 images from Saturday's first game. Fans can view and/or purchase thousands of multi-SAGU sporting events. Once on the site, click on the game and then click continue.