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Aggies Bring Home Two Wins in Series against Division II SNU

By Alyssa Fox on 02/05/2018 Beverly Hintergardt photo Beverly Hintergardt photo

Bethany, Okla.—The Aggies traveled upstate this weekend for their first away-series of the season to face the Southern Nazarene University Storm. A back-and-forth matchup left both teams with one win each on Saturday's double-header (SNU 7-2, OPSU 9-2), with the Aggies taking home the win on Sunday in a close game three (OPSU 14-10).

The Aggies started game one off strong, with leadoff hitter, senior Nate Kelly boasting a single up the middle. Kelly advanced to second off the bat of Rodriguez and on to third on a wild pitch by the Storm's Ryan Mills. Junior Jared Mayeda brought Kelly in on an RBI single through the left side. SNU answered back thrice in the bottom of the first on two wild pitches and a solo homerun and left the Aggies three up-three down in the second with a strikeout and two groundouts to left. The Aggies came back swinging in the third and Kelly made his way around the diamond again as he singled to the left side to get on and was advanced by singles from both junior Kasey Leatherwood and freshman Luis Rodriguez.

SNU brought in one run each in innings 3-5 that would go unanswered by the Aggies. Facing productive pitching on either side combined with one fielding error apiece, both teams left runners stranded in the sixth and went three up-three down in the seventh. SNU tacked on one more run on an RBI double in the eighth and left the Aggies on the losing side of a 7-2 game. Casillas took the loss for the Aggies while Ryan Mills brought home the first win for Southern Nazarene.

The Aggies once again proved their resiliency as they began their seven-inning game two with leadoff hitter Kelly packing a punch with his first hit of the game and roping a triple down the right field line. Second up Stallworth grounded out to the short stop but managed to bring in an RBI as Kelly crossed home plate. The first inning also saw the first solo homerun from sophomore Gerson Padilla and the Aggies were up 2-0 as Corey Ley left the Storm three up-three down in the bottom of the first. A base on balls for Bowman started off the second and senior Pierce Edwards doubled to right field, sending Bowman to third. Kelly reached on an error by the SNU shortstop and a follow-up error advanced him to second and allowed both Bowman and Edwards to score. Stallworth made his way to first on a hit-by-pitch and a simultaneous double steal sent him to second and Kelly to third, though Mayeda flied out to center field and ultimately left the runners stranded to wrap second. SNU answered back two RBI's in the bottom of the second with a double from Rodgers and brought the score 4-2, still in favor of the Aggies.

The top of the third saw advances for Padilla and Dean on two wild pitches but a third-base pickoff and two strikeouts for the Aggies and a strikeout and two fly-outs for SNU left the third inning scoreless. In the top of the fourth, a single from Kelly and a base on balls for Stallworth got both runners on, and the two worked their double steal magic once again as Kelly advanced to third on a wild pitch and Stallworth stole second with runners first and third. Mayeda stepped up and barreled a single to right to bring in both Kelly and Stallworth for two RBI's. SNU would be unable to match the Aggie's hitting streak and would remain scoreless through the bottom three innings.

The Aggies continued thriving in their game two bounce back performance to the end, bringing in two more runs in the top of the seventh, with Edwards reaching on a fielder's choice and advancing on an error, a walk for Kelly and a single up the middle from sophomore Chris Schraer to bring both runners in. SNU fell to the Aggies 9-2, with Corey Ley pitching a complete game with seven strikeouts and two earned runs and bringing in the second win of the season for the Aggies.

On Sunday going in to game three, the Aggies were quiet with no hits in the top of the first, but SNU came on strong with three runs off two errors and a wild pitch to end the first inning. The Aggies, however, were quick to refocus and tie the score in the second, with a base clearing double off the bat Sanchez. Steadfast pitching from Adrian Lopez and good fielding by OPSU kept SNU at bay and the Aggies continued their unanswered hitting hot streak through the third and fourth innings with leadoff hitter Kelly starting with a double, and a base on balls sending Padilla to first; both runners were brought in by singles to the left from Mayeda and Frye, and Edwards saw a triple to start off the fourth. Another base on balls got Sanchez on and Kelly reached on a cleanly laid bunt. Both runners advanced on wild pitches, and Padilla brought them home with two outs on a two-RBI single up the middle. SNU closed out the fourth quietly, leaving the score 7-3 in the Aggies' favor.

A busy fifth inning led to two runs for SNU and four for the Aggies on RBIs from Kelly and Mayeda and a two-RBI homerun from freshman Jaylon Burnett; the seventh brought in two more runs on RBI's off a single from Sanchez and a sac fly out from Kelly. SNU caught a second wind in the bottom of the seventh and attempted to close the gap, tacking five runs on to bring the score 13-10 (Aggies). An RBI double from Stallworth brought the score up 14-10, and though SNU added on one more run in the top of the ninth, overall they could not overcome the deficit, closing out the ninth 14-11, Aggies. Lopez ended the game with six strikeouts and only one earned run and would take home the win for the red and blue, with Gomez securing the save.

Coach LaRocque said, "Our guys played really hard. Each game in each series reveals more and more about the character of our guys and the culture of this program. The word that continues to come to mind is resiliency- we have guys that have a lot of heart and that play for each other. We have strengths that complement one another 1-9 in the lineup, on defense and on the mound. I think we're really finding a chemistry that is the advocate to our success." LaRocque continued, "Our guys scrapped at the plate all series long, we battled on good pitches and capitalized on mistakes. We have a lot of talent and a lot of depth but more importantly is the diversity in out lineup. We have a lot of players that create a different dynamic and when we execute well we have the potential to beat anybody."

LaRocque commended, "I was really impressed with how our pitching staff battled, they faced a good hitting team but I felt like they really executed on all fronts. The tempo was great, the conviction on their stuff was really good. Gerson Padilla was a quality battery for us, he has a great feel for the game and his chemistry with pitchers and our pitching coach Brandon Mercer is exceptional. The intensity that our guys played with all weekend long was prominent and outstanding; they didn't let up for a pitch and really played to win pitch by pitch. I think that attention to detail and that intensity is most impressive. You can tell our guys are hungry to win and they don't take the opportunity for granted. Our preparation has been imminent in games, but if we are going to compete in the way we have potential to do so, then the focus has to be there. I know we have big week this week, and we are about to see our true colors and what our era of Panhandle baseball is really made of."

The Aggies sit with an even 3-3 record and will see an action-packed upcoming week playing six games in six days. The team will spend another game away as they travel to Portales, New Mexico to face the Eastern New Mexico University Greyhounds on February 6 before returning home to take on the Pittsburg State Gorillas in single, nine-inning contest on February 8 at 1 p.m. at Aggie Field. Following, they will head to McPherson, Kansas for a round robin against McPherson College and Evangel University on February 10-11.