Changing momentum before championships

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Freshman third baseman Nathan Patton, shown above, is one of the 21 freshmen that hope to get to the SCAC Championship this season. University of Dallas Photo.

The Crusaders started last Wednesday’s home game against Dallas Christian College in fine form with one run per inning in the first three innings. Freshman Colby Davenport started at pitcher for the Crusaders, posting three innings with no hits from Dallas Christian.

With a 3-0 edge, the Crusaders went through two innings unfazed with freshman Nick Goehring and junior Kyle Gamez pitching in relief. Dallas Christian College had hits in both frames, but did not  break through until the sixth and seventh innings, where they had a combined 12 hits. 

In the sixth frame, Dallas Christian smashed a trio of doubles, with the first and second doubles counting for two RBI each and lifting them to a 6-3 edge.

In the seventh, Dallas Christian struck again with six more runs. Only three knocks were recorded in the seventh, but consecutive catcher’s interferences were called. The second knock occurred with bases loaded and allowed another run to cross.

The Crusaders responded with one run in each bottom half of the seventh and eighth innings to make it a 5-12 deficit. 

Then came the miraculous ninth inning.

While the first two Crusaders earned outs, freshman third baseman Nathan Patton dropped a double down the left field line. From there, the Crusaders pushed on, with eight straight hitters reaching base. 

Sophomore outfielder Enrique Vigil, pinch hitting for catcher Zach San Roman, earned his first career RBI, and then classmate Paul Scioli, who smashed a home run in the eighth, turned on another ball to scratch the margin to 12-8. 

“My mentality was to simply see the baseball really well and trust the work that I’ve been putting in,” Scioli said. “I’ve been able to focus in on little things like seeing the baseball, getting my timing and having a strong top hand through the baseball. So my mindset for the most part was just [to] breathe, see the baseball, and attack. Before every bat I would remind myself to have a strong top hand.” 

After Dallas Christian changed pitchers, sophomore shortstop Josh Abalos singled down left field, loading the bases. Fellow sophomore Jordan Stickler got hit by a pitch to drive classmate Brice Cell in, and cut the deficit 9-12. 

The real heroics came from freshman pinch hitter Nicholas Hovde, who, after two strikes, with the bases loaded and the Crusaders still down 9-12 with two outs, recovered and connected with the ball for his second hit of the season in less than a week, clearing the bases and to tie the game at twelve.

The next pitch glanced off of the catcher’s glove, and Hovde crossed home, where he was met by a mob of excited teammates, for the game-winning run and first run of his career.

“After striking out the first time when I was up to bat, I told myself I’m going to get a hit this time,” Hovde said. 

The Crusaders then went on the road against LeTourneau University in a doubleheader on Saturday, April 1. The Crusaders came up short in the second game to lose 7-8, despite taking the first game 6-2 with steady offense and pitching..

In the first game on Saturday, the LeTourneau YellowJackets scored their only runs in the second and third frames. In the third frame, Stickler was issued a one-out walk, and then JP Fasone followed with a walk of his own. After a second out, Patton and San Roman laced consecutive RBI-singles to left center to take the lead 2-1.

An error in the bottom of the third by one of the Dallas defenders allowed all the runners to advance, and LeTourneau tied the game 2-2.

A run in the fourth thanks to an error by the YellowJackets allowed Stickler to reach base, and Cell to score the go-ahead run. An inning later, the Crusaders doubled the lead as San Roman dropped a double down the right field line to score second baseman Seth Hanson.

Dallas also earned two more runs in the seventh to seal the second straight win in the 5-game, non-conference stretch.

“I feel like we rode the win from Dallas Christian College, rallying from being down eight runs with two outs in the ninth, in order to defeat LeTourneau 6-2,” Hovde said. “We need to keep hitting the ball hard like we have been along with playing good fundamental defense and pitching. Our mindset should be just to keep battling in every at bat, whether we’re losing or winning.”

In the second game of the doubleheader on Saturday, the Crusaders pitching and defense allowed the YellowJackets to gain a 8-5 lead after the seventh frame. In the final and ninth inning, the Crusaders did fight back and earned two runs, but ultimately a strikeout ended the comeback.

Unfortunately, due to weather issues, the rubber game on Sunday was cancelled.

“Against DCC and LeTourneau I felt like we made crucial adjustments that we’ve been working on in practice the past week or two,” Scioli said. “These adjustments are simple: everybody constantly communicating on every pitch which keeps us engaged at all times and helps us limit damage when we do make mistakes. As a team we need to keep working on those adjustments we’ve made.  … Those break-through performances are going to be what carry us for the rest of this season.”

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