No.8 ranked LSU-Shreveport pulls away
Southwestern turns Pilots into June bugs
Ward, Hensel, Jett and Wherland swing scare into LSUS
SHREVEPORT, Louisiana -- It's not often losing a three-game sweep to a nationally ranked team has any noteworthy drama. Louisiana State University at Shreveport, ranked #8 in the NAIA with the nation's highest scoring team, as expected, took the weekend home series against Southwestern Assemblies of God University.
The front-running Pilots, who improved their league record to 20-1 against the Red River Athletic Conference and are 30-8 overall, cruised to wins in the first two games of the series. In game three they appeared to be on the verge of replicating their previous scores against the Lions, building a quick 6-1 lead.
Head Coach Greg Hayes' team was facing a better pitcher than they had in the first two games. They were collecting hits and coaxing walks, but were also leaving Cats stranded on base.
Plenty of positives to draw from against stellar opponent
Undaunted, SAGU began chipping away at the deficit until they had drawn to within 6-5 in the sixth inning. "Nervous as a June bug in a henhouse," the Pilots quickly made a number of line-up changes to rain on the Lions upset parade.
On a breezy day in the mid 80's, LSU-Shreveport got a pair of wind-aided hits to pull away for a 12-5 triumph that dropped SAGU to 8-25 overall and 3-21 in league games.
A high-drive to right-centerfield by LSUS' Michael Diffie continued to slice away from a hard-charging, diving centerfielder Sean Armstrong (Albuquerque, NM / Manzano HS). The sophomore actually made a spectacular catch until the ground jarred the ball loose. The resulting triple fueled a rally that allowed the Pilots to score two insurance runs.
The decisive blow, literally and figuratively, came on a towering pop-up. Soaring at first above home plate, the ball carried to the left, then wafting towards the mound. With a committee of glove-wielding infielders resembling butterfly catchers, the elusive sphere fell harmlessly to the turf betwixt, and between.
But the Lions knew they made them sweat.
Cats aplenty running the bases
SAGU put 19 runners on base but left twelve of them marooned. They outhit the Pilots until the last inning in a performance that was significant for the young Lions. Both teams finished with 10 base hits.
Cameron Ward (Mansfield, Tx / Grace Prep) had an outstanding weekend, collecting three hits in the third game and going 5-for-9 in the series. Riley Hensel (Maypearl, Tx / Maypearl HS) drove in three runs and Dustin Jett (Patterson, La / Patterson HS) collected three hits on Friday.
Rally cut short
Jett led off the top of the third with a line-drive that glanced off the pitcher's (Drew Middleton) leg. After Hensel advanced him to second, he rocketed home on a single to center by strongman Patrick Wherland (Petrolia, Tx / Petrolia HS).
SAGU added another run in the fourth when Hensel walked with the bases loaded to force in Adam Villarrial (Waco, Tx / Midway HS). It knocked out the Pilots' second hurler, Jacob Kight. The bags were left full when Wherland's hot smash turned into a fielder's choice on Taylor Riggs' second pitch.
They tacked on another tally in the fifth. DuJuan Prater (Copperas Cove, Tx / Copperas Cove HS) clouted a double to the farthest point down the leftfield line. A sacrifice bunt by Ward moved him to third, where he scurried home when Ben Chavez (Roswell, NM / NMMI, Gateway HS) smacked a sac-fly to right-center.
Denney, one of the nation's leaders in achieving a base on balls, walked for the second time to start the sixth. Villarrial was sent into the game to run in his place. He swiped second base before Riggs issued a free pass to Armstrong. Hensel pummeled a one-out shot off the wall in rightcenter that scored Villarrial and the fleet-footed Armstrong, who had logged onto the high-speed network.
Trailing by one, Wherland was thumped by an inside pitch to accelerate the heart rate of Shreveport fans. With Prater at bat the Lions rally died when he smashed a one-hop grounder that shortstop Shawn Moy turned into a double play.
Scoring bid fizzles
Southwestern had another rally brewing in the 7th. Left-handed batter Ward hit a frozen rope to left to lead things off. Mike Wherland (Petrolia, Tx / Petrolia HS), a cat-quick freshman, stepped in to run for him. Chavez singled to right field. Down 8-5, with two on and no outs, the Lions had something brewing.
Two batter struck out, one while bunting, one watching, before Gomez ripped a line-drive that Diffie snared at second.
The RRAC has four teams ranked in the weekly NAIA Coaches Poll, including Northwood University, Texas Wesleyan, UT-Brownsville and LSUS. The baseball programs at those schools are firmly established, have rosters chocked full of full-ride players, and make life difficult for teams in the conference.
SAGU drops twinbill opener; Morgan, Schexneider pitch well
LSU-Shreveport, won the opener on Friday, 11-1, on a two-hitter by Ben Suit (5-2). He retired the first eight men he faced. SAGU scored when Ward pounded a single to right. Hensel was thumped by a pitch. Following a botched bunt attempt, Jett stepped to the plate for a classic dual with Suit.
Jett-liner sets down on leftfield runway
Battling the right-hander by fouling off difficult pitches to stay alive, Jett finally got something to his liking on the ninth offering. The bayou baller lashed an RBI single past a diving shortstop, Manny Estrada, that knocked in Ward.
Nic Morgan (Ft. Worth, Tx / LeTourneau, Boswell HS) was especially effective with his change-up. The southpaw kept the Pilots off balance with a mix of off-speed pitches and his fastball. By keeping the ball down against one of the nation's best hitting teams, five wild pitches and two passed balls, coupled with seven stolen bases unfastened a commendable effort. Along with Trevor Schexneider (Elizabethtown, Ky / Elizabethtown HS), the lefties held the Pilots to eight hits. Morgan fanned four.
Some key plays by the defense included a leaping, backhanded stab at second by Chavez. In the bottom of the second Jared Denton (Mission, Tx / Sharyland HS), a freshman catcher, gunned out a baserunner at third base. David Gomez (Del Rio, Tx / Bowie HS) applied the tag.
An inning later Morgan picked off his second batter. First baseman Ward took his throw and fired a dart to shortstop Weston Lippe (Huntsville, Tx / Alpha-Omega HS), who finished off the surprised runner.
Sophomore Jared Jones (Copperas Cove, Tx / Copperas Cove HS) missed the series due to an injury he sustained earlier in the week. He fouled a pitch that glanced off his left foot. X-rays were negative. He is expected back soon. In his absence, Lippe was more than up to the task. In the three games in Shreveport he made a lone error.
Next Up for the Lions
SAGU is currently in a stretch of 15 games where 14 are on the road. On Tuesday the Lions will be 130 miles southwest of Waxahachie when they face Howard Payne University in Brownwood. The two ballclubs play at 1:00pm. Jones fired a complete game victory against them three weeks ago.
Likely to throw from the hill include Lippe, Sean Godding (Waxahachie, Tx / Palmer HS) and Chavez. Jones could possibly see action if his recovery enables.