Lions corral Mustangs for 10-8 road win
Rodriguez late homer keys 16-hit attack
Cox, Chitty earn 2nd win, first save on the mound
HOBBS, New Mexico -- Enrique Rodriguez (Ft. Worth, Tx / Nolan HS) doubled to start a three-run, tie-breaking rally in the seventh inning, then crushed a gigantic homer in the eighth as Southwestern Assemblies of God University defeated the University of the Southwest, 10-8, in college baseball on Saturday.
SAGU racked up 16 hits to keep the pressure on the Mustangs, who won the first two games of the series on Friday, 6-1 and 12-6.
Nick Cox (Lufkin, Tx / Lufkin HS), who had missed a number of weeks of action, returned to the mound to pick up the win, his second this spring. He took the team into the seventh, scattering nine hits while striking out five batters, all of them swinging.
Battling winds gusting up to 25 mph, he walked five and hit one batter in a 123 pitch effort.
“It was a big win for us,” said second year Head Coach Jonathan Shockley. “We’re very young, but I like the way the guys fight against the odds. They don’t back down.”
He praised the work of Cox, a 6-foot-1 freshman lefthander. “He had a good fastball-change-up combo going today. His curveball was good, but Nick got a lot of (batters to swing) on the change.”
The variation of speeds he used was effective, especially given the windy conditions.
The Lions, now 14-25 overall and 4-14, have now outscored last year’s team 194 to 150. The 2012 team had a 14-28 mark and won just once in the Red River Athletic Conference (1-22). It was the third year in a row that USW (11-18, 7-11 in RRAC) won the series two games to one.
After the Mustangs overcame a 4-0 first inning deficit with three in the third and tacked on the equalizer in the sixth, the Lions regained control.
Rodriquez, a sophomore, led off the top of the seventh with a shot to left-center before Cox bunt him to third base. Following a four-pitch walk to Rockie Davis (Santa Fe, Tx / Santa Fe HS), Micah Thompson (Waco, Tx / Gatesville HS) lined a two-run double in the gap near the centerfielder.
The ensuing batter, freshman Garrett Thomas (Red Oak, Tx / Red Oak HS) jumped on the next pitch, a single up the middle to drive in Thompson for a 7-4 lead.
Nick Turley (Ovilla, Tx / Ovilla Christian), a 6-foot-5 freshman, relieved Cox by breezing through a hitless seventh.
In the eighth frame, SAGU added a pair of runs for a 9-4 upper hand.
Colten Conner (Flower Mound, Tx / Flower Mound HS), one of 17 freshmen on the squad, led off with a single to right. Earlier he produced a two-run, two-bagger in the first inning.
“CoCo,” he is called by Coach Shockley, advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt toward third by Billy Mee (Fayetteville, NC / Copperas Cove HS). It was Mee’s second and the fourth time in the game the Lions laid down a perfectly executed sacrifice bunt.
Looking for an RBI hit as an insurance run, Rodriguez more than delivered the goods.
On a 1-2 offering the sophomore catcher dialed 9 for long distance; a high and deep dinger down the leftfield line. Connectamundo! It was his first collegiate homer.
The Mustangs tacked on three in the eighth on a walk, four hits and a pair of hit batsman, slicing their deficit to 9-7.
SAGU got a run back in their half of the ninth.
Jared Denton (Mission, Tx / Sharyland HS) was issued a two-out, base on balls (walk). Conner stroked the next pitch to center, moving Denton into scoring position.
Mee, who had struggled at the dish of late, smashed a clutch, run-scoring single to left on a 2-1 pitch for a 10-7 margin. That prompted rally caps for the Mustangs.
USW put their first two batters on base in the ninth when they were both plunked by SAGU; the first on the sixth pitch, the second on the fifth. The call was then made to Montana Chitty (Lake Worth, Tx / Lake Worth HS), a 6’2, gritty freshman.
From northwest of Ft. Worth, the right-hander proved his worth, retiring the numbers 2, 3 and 4 hitters on eleven pitches. After a fielder’s choice, the next batter lifted a sacrifice fly to center to score a run.
Chitty earned his first collegiate save when he coaxed the final batter, Bryan Hernandez, to pop-up to Mee at first base.
Hernandez, at .340 is the Mustangs’ RBI leader. SAGU pitchers held him without a hit in six trips to the plate on Saturday.
Coach Shockley specifically mentioned the timely hitting of Thompson, the “Rodriguez bomb,” Mee and Conner. “They were focused and had great cuts at the plate,” he said. “This is a hitters’ conference and we needed guys to step up.”
Defensively the Lions had several memorable moments that cooled off would-be rallies by the hosts from Hobbs.
Southwest loaded the bases in the second with no outs. Cox had a dual with the next batter that lasted seven pitches before he smacked a grounder to down the line. Taylor Froelich (Lee's Summit, Mo / Lee's Summit West HS) gloved the ball, touched third and fired to Rodriguez at home for a twin killer.
Cox escaped the jam by fanning the final batter on four pitches.
“He made some good pitches in scary situations,” Shockley said of Cox.
Twice with runners in scoring position, the leftfielder, Denton, “made great running catches to save us,” added the coach. Conner contributed a key play when he chased down a long fly in rightfield to squelch a scoring threat.
Eight of final 11 games at home
SAGU has 11 games remaining, eight of them at home.
The Lions will host nationally ranked LSU-Shreveport (24-13, 10-8 in RRAC) next weekend. It begins with a doubleheader at the Waxahachie Sports Complex on Friday, April 5. The first game is slated for a 1:00pm (CST) start.
A nine-inning solo game on Saturday will be played at the campus ballfield, beginning at 1:00pm.
SAGU also has a three game series against Texas Wesleyan University (27-12, 11-6 in RRAC) and Huston-Tillotson University (9-33, 4-13 in RRAC) as well as a twinbill against Dallas Christian College (12-26).
The Lions, who ended a nine-game skid with Saturday’s win, still have an outside chance at qualifying for the RRAC tournament (April 27-30). They can also receive an invitation to the *NCCAA Central Regional in Oklahoma City, May 7-10, though they need several more wins down the stretch.
New Staffer Added for Stretch Run
Coach Shockley introduced a new Assistant Coach to the team this past week. Derik Dukes, with a solid prep and college career in Kansas, will provide steady insight in the remaining month of the 2013 campaign.
He fills the role that Tommy Benningfield had served. A former SAGU standout, Benningfield, who recently landed a new job, had been the team’s third base coach.
Cats Batting Stats
Statistically, Denton continues to pace the Purple Pride in batting, toting a .380 average, ranking sixth in the RRAC. With 14 extra-base hits, his 31 runs batted in (RBI) are also sixth best in the league.
Thomas, a talented freshman, has won the shortstop position. While hitting .356, he is one of seven Lions currently over .300 at the plate.
Conner has a .333 norm, Froelich (FRAY-lik) is at .326, Davis .324, Mee .313 with Cox sporting a .309 club. The group consists of four freshmen, a sophomore and two juniors. The Lions have no seniors on this year’s roster.
Junior Nick Sheffield (Maypearl, Tx / Maypearl HS), who shares co-captain duties with Denton, is back from the injured list. His carries a .290 BA.
As a team, SAGU is batting .278. After Denton's 31 ribbies, Davis, Mee and Froelich are tied with 18.
Davis and Bryant Threadgill (Whiteright, Tx / Whiteright HS, Dallas Christian College) ) each have two of the team's seven homers. Last season the team collectively hit only four.
Mee and Thompson are 1-2 in getting walks, with 25 and 23 respectively, with the latter getting an additional six free passes for being hit by opposing pitchers.
*National Christian College Athletic Association (NCCAA)