After winning two games against the University of the Ozarks Eagles last weekend, the University of Dallas Crusaders baseball team returned home to face the LeTourneau University Yellow Jackets in a three-game series.
In the first game, the Crusaders scored first with two runs in the 4th inning. With one out, senior left fielder Luke Boylson hit a double to right center field. Senior catcher Jessup Scott then followed up with a single, and senior first baseman Mark Peterson was issued a walk to load the bases. Junior designated hitter Zachary Taylor then hit a single to score Boylson, and senior right fielder Paul Scioli grounded into a fielder’s choice as Scott came in to score.
The Yellow Jackets then struck back in the top of the 7th inning by scoring two runs of their own. The momentum of the game ultimately shifted in the Crusaders’ favor, however, when in the bottom of the 7th inning with two outs senior center fielder Jordan Stickler hit a single to get on base. Stickler then advanced to second on a balk by the pitcher. Senior Josh Abalos then came up to bat and hit a ball past the defense, scoring Stickler and winning the game in walk-off fashion 3-2.
“After Stickler advanced to second on a balk, I knew I had to find a way to get him in,” Abalos said of the game-winning RBI. “I got in a hole with a 0-2 count and knew I had to fight to get something in play. I fought off an inside fastball, and fortunately I hit it well enough to get it up the middle. I knew once it got through that he would score. It was a pretty awesome feeling seeing the whole team running towards me to celebrate. Especially it being my senior season, it is a very cool and special moment I won’t forget.”
In game two the Yellow Jackets scored first with two runs in the 1st inning and four runs in the 2nd inning. Later in the game, the Yellow Jackets would go on to add two more in the top of the 8th inning, making it an 8-0 game. The Crusaders scored their first two runs of the game in the bottom of the 8th and matched the Yellow Jackets’ run production for that inning. After two flyouts to start the inning, freshman pinch hitter Andrew Womack hit a single to get on base. Freshman shortstop Michael Jaquez then hit a single to move Womack to second. Stickler then hit the third single to load the bases for the Crusaders. Abalos then came up to bat and hit a fourth single for the Crusaders, giving them two RBIs for the game. The Yellow Jackets would remain in control, however, as they added on another run in the top of the ninth inning, winning the game 9-2.
The third game featured a teeter-totter affair between the Crusaders and Yellow Jackets, as the Yellow Jackets scored two runs in the 1st inning and one run in the 2nd inning of the game. The Crusaders would strike back as Scott started the bottom of the 2nd inning with a single to get on base. Peterson then hit a double to score Scott, and advanced to third on a wild pitch. Peterson then came in to score after another wild pitch.
The Crusaders took the lead in the 3rd inning when Stickler and Abalos both got on base by bunting to start the frame. With the bases juiced, Scott hit a single down the right field line to score two Crusaders, giving the team a 4-3 advantage.
The momentum shifted in the Yellow Jackets’ favor, however, as they scored nine runs in the last four innings of the ballgame. The Crusaders responded in the 9th with two runs of their own, but were unable to overcome the deficit as the Yellow Jackets won the game 12-6.
“We have to get better with our at bats and our approaches at the plate,” Head Coach Erik Grafton said of the team’s performance against LeTourneau University. “We aren’t stringing together a lot of hits right now so we have to get better swinging the bats. And on the mound we have to throw more strikes and better quality strikes. Right now I feel like when we are hitting we are down in the count a lot and having to really fight through our at bats and on the mound we are behind in counts too much and having to throw pitches that are too hittable. Our defense is improving and we run the bases well, but it comes down to pitching and hitting to win games.”
Up next, the Crusaders will be participating in the NCC-Saluki Tournament hosted at Southern Illinois University. The Crusaders will start the tournament by playing Blackburn College. First pitch is Feb. 22, Friday at 6 p.m.