SAGU takes baseball series with 7-3 win
Denton goes 8-of-11, throws out 5-of-6 runners
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WAXAHACHIE, Texas -- Led by a stellar weekend from senior Jared Denton, the Southwestern Assemblies of God University baseball team won a three-game series, two-to-one, over Southwestern Christian University.
SAGU dropped the first game of a Friday doubleheader, 4-2, before taking the second game by the same score. The double-dip was played at the Waxahachie Sports Complex.
The Lions won the rubber game at the campus ballfield, 7-3. It was played in a misty, drizzle, conditions that led to a few misplayed balls and bad hops.
It was the second straight league series won by SAGU, who elevated their overall record to 14-16. At 5-7 in the Sooner Athletic Conference, the team is in sixth place among the ten teams.
Denton is from the Rio Grande Valley’s Sharyland High School (Mission, Tx), where he played his prep career for the “Rattlers.”
This weekend he struck SWCU for eight base hits in eleven trips to the plate, including four doubles. “JD” drove in four runs and scored three times.
Perhaps more impressive was his performance behind the dish. While catching the first and third games he threw out five-of-six runners attempting to steal a base. Denton nailed four-of-five in one game.
This spring he has recoiled to bite 10-of-18 would-be base-burglars.
Denton’s batting average rose to .400, which ranks sixth among the Top 10 in the SAC.
“We are really proud of the effort and resolve our guys played with in the series,” Head Coach Sam Blackmon said. “Despite losing the first game, we stayed focused and got great pitching performances from Hayden (Killebrew) and Raul (Castro) in game two.”
“Then we got another one from “Tres” (Pedro Ortiz) in game three.”
“Offensively Jared and Clay (Gentle) had great weekends,” he continued, “and several guys stepped up big in various situations to help offensively.”
“Defensively, turning several critical double was a major highlight as well.”
For his part, Gentle turned in an 8-for-13 series against SCU.
GAME ONE: SWCU 4-2
The visiting Eagles scored all four of their runs in the top of the first inning against SAGU’s Jeremy Cross (Americus, Ga / Harker Heights HS, Univ of Dallas).
An infield hit, four walks, an error and a suicide squeeze bunt produced the only runs SWCU would need. One of them was unearned.
Cross, a senior left-hander, pitched into the fourth inning, allowing five hits and six base on balls. His record slipped to 2-2.
Bryant Threadgill (Whitewright, Tx / Whitewright HS, Dallas Chr. College) tossed the final three and two-thirds of an inning without giving up a run. He yielded three hits, all singles.
SAGU was held scoreless in the first four innings, though they did have four hits.
The Lions 'pleaded their case in the fifth,' when they scored twice, but left the bases loaded.
Brock Schneider (Arlington, Tx / Martin HS) singled past the shortstop to start the rally. A pinch-hitter moved him to second with a groundout to first.
Preston Hornbeck (McKinney, Tx / McKinney HS, Heston JuCo) got a free pass and Gentle sent a smash through the infield to load the bags with Lions.
Following a change of pitchers, Denton ripped a hit to left-centerfield with Schneider racing home. Tallon Ralstin (Cortez, Colo / Cortez HS) lined a single to shallow center to knock in Hornbeck. The next two batters flew out, down the leftfield line and to leftcenter.
Zack Ballangee, who relieved Jacob Spencer that inning, then sat down the Lions in order in the sixth and seven innings.
Denton went 3-for-4 and Gentle was 2-for-4. Ralstin, Schneider and Lance Marks (Nevada, Tx / Community HS, Central Christian College) had the team’s other three hits.
GAME TWO: SAGU 4-2
The second game saw Hayden Killebrew (Red Oak, Tx / Red Oak HS) earn the win by scattering nine hits in four and two-thirds of an inning. Now 2-1, the sophomore walked two and struck out one.
SAGU produced a run in the first, two in the third and a final tally in the bottom of the fifth.
Denton powered a double deep down the leftfield line and scored when Threadgill answered with a base knock to left.
The Purple Pride tacked on a crooked number with two-outs in the third.
Gentle singled to straight-away center and Denton punched one through a gap in the infield.
A grounder to shortstop off the bat of Threadgill ended with an errant throw that allowed Gentle to come home. Eric Hagstrom (Universal City, Tx / Converse Judson HS, Lubbock Christian Univ) followed with a bouncing ball that was bobbled at short and Denton trotted to the dish for a 3-1 lead.
The Eagles drew to within a run with a single and a triple to right-center in the top of the fifth. Raul Castro (Garland, Tx / Berkner HS, Hillsdale College) got the call to relieve Killebrew.
He retired the first batter on a pop-up to Gentle at second.
SAGU quickly replied with an insurance run that inning.
Once again it was Denton providing the stimulus.
He crushed a pitch deep into the wind that appeared unplayable. It bounded to the fence in leftcenter while he cruised into second with an easy, stand-up double.
Threadgill, a 6’3 sophomore, beat out an infield single between first and second, advancing Denton to third.
Wily senior Nick Sheffield (Maypearl, Tx / Maypearl HS) then laid down an aptly placed bunt with Denton scoring easily for a 4-2 lead.
Castro enjoyed a 1-2-3 sixth. But in the seventh he had to work to earn a save.
The sophomore righty got the first man on a fly to Ralstin in right before the Eagles put two runners on board. A questionable walk came on a 2-2 pitch before clean-up hitter, Aaron Ibarra, hit a flair that just eluded the infield in right.
The 6’2 Castro shut the door with one pitch to Drake Johnson. His grounder to Gentle was scooped and pitched to Hornbeck at shortstop, who fired to a fully stretched Threadgill at first. The twin-killing ended the game for the victorious Lions.
Denton went 3-for-3 and scored thrice while Threadgill turned in a 2-fo-3 effort. Schneider, Josh Terry (Daingerfield, Tx / Daingerfield HS) and Gentle each had one hit.
GAME THREE: SAGU 7-3
Pedro “Tres” Ortiz (Lorena, Tx / Lorena HS) capped the series with well-pitched, nine inning complete game victory, his third complete game of the season.
The 5’9 southpaw surrendered only four hits, three runs, though only one was earned. He walked two and whiffed three.
With a mix of varying speed pitches he kept the Eagles off-balance while throwing 123 pitches.
Staked to a 4-0 lead, Ortiz ran into trouble in the fifth and sixth frames.
The Blue Birds produced two runs on an infield error, a triple by Johnson into the gap in left-center, and a passed ball.
In their next at bat they used a walk, a sacrifice bunt and an infield error to draw to within 4-3.
Ortiz escaped further damage in the sixth when, with two runners on board and two outs, a liner was hit over the Lions shortstop. But the 6’0 bearded Hornbeck spun to his right, and leapt to catch the ball with a backhanded stab.
In the seventh the Eagles were threatening when Ortiz bore down to snuff out the rally.
He struck out one batter, swinging, then benefitted from a double play. Hornbeck fielded a hot hopper and tossed to Gentle, who turned and gunned the runner to Threadgill at first.
Ortiz appeared to be tiring in the eighth, but Pitching Coach Chris Semprun, after a meeting on the mound, stuck with him. He surrendered a leadoff single, then whirled and nabbed the runner with a pickoff play at first.
Keeping his pitches low he sat down the next two batters on grounders to Hornbeck and Sheffield at third.
He took the hill in the ninth determined to finish the job.
Following an infield single, he got another double play; Gentle-to-Hornbeck-to-Threadgill, before retiring the last batter on a foul fly to right that was gloved by Jonathan Santiago (Arlington, Tx / Bowie HS).
Ortiz had just enough to get to the finish line. Like the chorus of a hit tune by The Wallflowers, “he drove it home with one headlight.”
SAGU had plenty of chances to turn the game into a rout, rapping 15 hits and picking up three walks. While they did produce seven runs, they also left 13 runners stranded on base.
The Pride got on the board once in the third. After infield singles by Schneider and Hornbeck, the Eagles intentionally walked the red-hot Denton to fill the bags with ‘Cats with one out. Threadgill sent a sacrifice fly to center to knock in Schneider.
They added some distance to the lead with three more in the next frame using four hits and an error. Singles by Sheffield and Hornbeck sandwiched a misplayed Santiago grounder to put Jungle Kings on each base.
Gentle stroked a looping liner to left for one run, then, with nowhere to put Denton, they pitched to him. He ripped a shot to the fence in left-center that had runners scurrying like scalded dogs for two more runs.
Southwestern Christian clawed closer but SAGU slammed the back door by tacking on three more runs in the bottom of the seventh.
Dej Mathis (Wister, Ok / Wister HS, Bacone College), who had flattened a pitch for a double in the fifth, reached first when his ground ball to first took a bad hop off Ibarra’s shoulder.
Sheffield worked a walk just ahead of a double along the first baseline by Santiago. It scored both runners. Hornbeck singled to drive in “Santi” for a 7-3 upper hand.
Gentle was anything but, registering a 4-for-5 game. Hornbeck accounted for three hits while Denton, Mathis and Sheffield were each credited with two hits. Both Santiago and Schneider hit safely as well.
Coach Blackmon rested two of his best pitchers, Jarrod Pisors (Red Oak, Tx / Red Oak HS) and Tucker Burt (North Richland Hills, Tx / Westlake Academy). The latter said he hopes to be back later this week.
Home game Tuesday evening at the Waxahachie Sports Complex
The Lions return to action on Tuesday evening, March 25. Jarvis Christian College, 15-9 in all games and 5-1 in the Red River Athletic Conference. The game begins at 6:00pm at the Waxahachie Sports Complex.
The Bulldogs have won 11 of their last 13 games.
SAGU travels to Chickasha, Ok. (pronounced CHICK-ah-SHAY) next weekend when they play a three-game set against the University of Science & Arts of Oklahoma (USAO). The Drovers are 11-16 in all games and 3-9 in league action.
The team has 18 games remaining on their schedule, 12 of them at home.
Contact: Mark “Link” Warde, SAGU Sports Information Director, at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 469-658-2847.
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