Despite COVID-19 complications, the University of Dallas baseball team’s season kicked off only two weeks late on Feb. 13, with the entirety of its schedule set throughout the rest of spring. The team currently sits at a record of 1-6, with the outlook for the rest of the season on the upswing.
The season began with a double header against Sul Ross State University. The Crusaders started off strong, with Nathan Patton (McKinney) hitting a double to right field to score Michael Jaquez (Irving) in the top of the first inning. The Crusaders led the Lobos 4-2 in the top of the third inning until a nine run response changed the momentum and gave the Lobos their first lead of the game. The Crusaders only scored one run in the fifth and seventh inning, and thus unfortunately fell to the Lobos 13-6.
The second game of the day was much closer. UD baseball suffered a 12-11 loss in extra innings. Despite the defeat, first baseman Zachary Taylor (Humble, Texas) had a monster game going 3 for 4 at the plate, scoring twice and landing one RBI as well.
On March 3, the Crusaders played their first set of home games against LeTourneau University. In their first matchup, a low scoring defensive game took a downturn for the Crusaders when the Yellow Jackets scored six runs in the sixth and seventh innings for an 8-2 final score. Jacquez was responsible for both UD RBIs, hitting a single and triple to drive Joe Vondrachek (North St. Paul, Minn.) two times to home plate.
The Crusaders rallied back defensively and offensively in their second game against the Yellow Jackets, receiving stellar pitching performances from starter Tyler Montemayor (Boerne, Texas) and relievers Andrew Magness (San Antonio, Texas), Ryan Flores (San Diego, Calif.) and Jon Talley (Pineville, La.). In total, they combined for nine strikeouts and allowed only four total hits, resulting in a one run performance from the Yellow Jackets. Taylor had another dominant offensive performance as well, picking up three RBIs and two hits to contribute to the Crusaders’ first victory of the season (6-1).
Playing on March 12 and 13, Howard Payne University hosted the UD Crusaders for a three game series with both teams looking for their second victory of the season. UD started off strong in its first game, but a two run homerun in the bottom of the ninth inning from the Yellow Jackets tied the game 6-6, leading to extra innings. Despite great performances at the plate from Michael Anderson (Denver, Colo.), Ross Lowe (Lewisville), and Jaquez, the Crusaders fell to the Yellow Jackets 6-7.
In its second game, both UD and Howard Payne University started off cold in their first matchup of the day, being tied 2-2 for most of the game until the Yellow Jackets blew the game open with a 10 run fifth inning. The Crusaders could not rally back and the Yellow Jackets won the first game of the day by a wide margin, ending in a final score of 12-6.
In the second game of the double header, UD starting pitcher Flores had a solid performance with five strikeouts and only allowed four runs from the explosive Yellow Jackets offense. However, the Crusaders’ bats could not come up with a late game comeback, and they fell short to Howard Payne University 4-3. Both Graeme Williams (Frisco) and Vondrachek had respectable performances at the plate; Williams knocked in two RBIs and Vondrachek had two hits as well.
Senior midfielder Vondrachek commented on the team’s performance thus far and what to expect from the team in the future: “We’re going to look to continue to draw from our deep roster this year and hit our stride heading into conference. We’re all grateful to be out on the field every day with our brothers and have the opportunity to compete for a championship.”
With a 1-6 record to begin its season, Head Coach Grafton expressed his optimism towards the team’s future performance in an email: “We have yet to play our best baseball. Although the record doesn’t reflect it, I feel like we have a talented team capable of winning a lot of games. We just have to continue to improve our execution and get better each time we are out on the field.”
With a positive outlook for the remainder of the season, the UD Crusaders are looking to open up to conference play on March 20 against Schreiner University.