TRUE GRIT: Jones, Denney star in Lions doubleheader split
Denney breaks record; Jones tosses complete game gem
WAXAHACHIE, Texas -- Behind an outstanding complete game performance by pitcher Jared Jones, Southwestern Assemblies of God University split a doubleheader with Howard Payne University on Tuesday afternoon. With fourteen games yet to be played, the Lions are one win away from equaling their total of a year ago.
After dropping a 6-2 decision in Game One to the Yellow Jackets, SAGU won a 3-2 pitcher's duel in the nightcap. The Lions record improved to 7-19 overall by taking one from the NCAA Division III Jackets, who are from Brownwood, Texas.
Head Coach Greg Hayes has led this young collection of talent in seven games over the past eight days, winning three times. Defense and pitching, clearly improving, allowed double-digits in runs just twice in seven outings.
The ballclub has also raised their team batting average from .266 in 2010, which was next-to-last in the league, to .283 this spring (7th).
GAME ONE: Jax pull away late, win 6-2
Southwestern junior catcher Dominic Denney (Albuquerque, NM / LaCueva HS) broke the SAGU record for walks in a season when he drew one of two bases on balls in the opener. His second pass was a classic as it came with the bases loaded, and forced in Patrick Wherland (Petrolia, Tx / Petrolia HS). It drew the Lions to within 4-2 in the bottom of the sixth inning.
The previous mark of 27 walks was set by Jayce Rasberry in 2005. Reggie Veal holds the career record with 68, achieved in three years, ending in 2008. Denney is currently at 47.
Hayes went with a plan to get four pitchers into the game, providing two innings to lefthanded starter Trevor Schexneider (Elizabethtown, Ky / Elizabethtown HS), Michael Reeves (Ovilla, Tx / Ovilla Christian HS), and Tim Kolczak (San Antonio, Tx / Taft HS), while Philip Heider (Malcolm, Neb / Citizens HS) tossed a lone frame. Each gave up at least one run, though Heider's was unearned.
The foursome yielded only nine hits and three walks, striking out one (Reeves). Kolczak, who had been on a roll of late, ranking 13th in the nation in saves (4), was touched for three runs (two were earned). The loss was pinned on Reeves. The run charged to him in the fourth snapped a 1-1 tie, giving Payne a lead they would never surrender. Still, the staff did well.
The Lions first run was scored in the third. Dustin Jett (Patterson, La / Patterson HS), shopping at the GAP, led off with a rip that allowed him to dash around the bases for a triple. He scampered home on a sacrifice fly off the bat of Jones (Copperas Cove, Tx / Copperas Cove HS), whose return to stopstop has helped solidify the defense's heightened play.
Jett was the only player with more than one hit, going 2-for-4. DuJuan Prater (Copperas Cove, Tx / Copperas Cove HS) blasted another double, giving him six on the season. The sophomore trails only Wherland (7).
Robert Anders, a senior right-hander from Midlothian, Texas, was solid for HPU. He got the win for going into the sixth inning, giving up four hits and striking out seven. Corey Howie earned the save.
GAME TWO: Keeping up with this Jones was a tall order
Showing his recovery from the shoulder surgery that shelved him during his freshman campaign, Jones was as efficient as a bear trap! He shined like a new penny with a complete game performance, spreading six hits, walking one and fanning four for his first collegiate win. After the first inning he shutout the Jackets the rest of the way.
Senior leftfielder Taylor Zambreski smashed a two-run dinger over the fence in rightcenterfield in the first for the Stingers' only blemish off of Jones. He settled down and then set down the Yellow Jackets the rest of the way.
Sharp as a bloodletter's lancet, Jones was striking. Howard Payne threatened just once, and Lions defense took care of that. Jett charged forward and made a sweet, diving catch in shallow centerfield in the fourth inning.
Moments later he topped the catch with 'the throw!' Leading 2-1, Ryan Klose was on second with a double. There were two outs when Sam Dollahite singled to center. Klose rounded third base and had his sights on home when Jett unleashed the 'long arm of the law.' His throw home to catcher Jared Denton (Mission, Tx / Sharyland HS) was as merciless as a judge, indicting the runner for trespassing. Jones set down the final six batters to bag the dubya.
"It feels good," he said afterwards in front of family and friends. He said he had three pitches going well; his fastball, curve and slider. "They did what they were supposed to do," he added, as if the pitches had a mind of their own.
Pitching coach Clay Scarborough agreed. "He had control of his pitches and threw as well as anyone has all season. Maybe even better."
True. Jones made it easy on the defense, getting the Jackets to ground out, pop up and whiff for the first SAGU complete game in over a year.
In the fifth inning the Lions roared! Weston Lippe (Huntsville, Tx / Alpha-Omega HS) and Wherland set the table by lashing singles through the left side of the infield. The runners advanced on a passed ball. Cameron Ward (Mansfield, Tx / Grace Prep) then bunted towards third base, scoring Lippe (LIP-ee) to tie the game at two.
Denton, as robust with a bat as he is versatile with a glove, smashed a single past the shortstop into leftfield. Wherland was given the green light and he sprinted home from second base for a 3-2 lead the Lions never relinquished.
SAGU's first tally occurred in the bottom of the second frame. With the bases occupied, Lippe, a 6'4 freshman, took one for the team. He was hit by a pitch from Reed Klose (KLO-see), forcing in Denton.
In the final inning the Lions may have been tempted to bring in Kolczak, the closer, to give him a shot at another save. As Scarborough pointed out, Jones deserved to finish what he started. After a flyout to Ben Chavez (Roswell, NM / NMMI, Gateway HS) in left, he got the next two easily, capping the victory while his teammates celebrated.
On the Horizon
Next up for SAGU is a three-game road trip to East Texas this weekend. The Lions will face Jarvis Christian College (5-14 overall, 5-10 in RRAC) in a 6:00pm game on Friday night, followed by two contests on Saturday, starting at noon. Jarvis is located along Highway 80 in Hawkins, just north of Tyler.
The Lions next home game is Tuesday, March 22, when they entertain Northwood University in a 6pm solo clash at the Waxahachie Sports Complex. The Knights are 23-5 in all of their games and are tied with LSU-Shreveport (21-7) with 12-0 marks in the Red River Athletic Conference.
The frontrunning Knights and Pilots play three times this weekend in Cedar Hill.
Southwestern will host the Central Regional for the National Christian College Athletic Association during May 10-12. Should the Lions come out on top, they would advance to the nationals, which will be held in Cincinnati (Mason, Ohio) on May 18-21.