It was a warm, mostly sunny weekend for the University of Dallas baseball team as the Crusaders took on Hendrix College, Concordia University and Hardin-Simmons University in the Rusty Greer & Jackie Moore Collegiate Classic at AirHogs Stadium.
Game one featured a tremendous comeback by the Crusaders to defeat the Hendrix College Warriors. It looked bleak as the Warriors plated a pair of runs in the first. By the end of the third inning, the Warriors had a 4-0 edge.
The darkest hour was just before the dawn, however, as freshman third baseman Nathan Patton dropped an RBI-single to center to put Dallas on the board at the top of the next inning.
Patton sprinted to second base on the throw to place two runners in scoring position with only one out. The bases would be left loaded, however, as UD would strand 10 over the course of the game.
The Warriors came out strong in relief as they shut down UD, giving up only an infield single by freshman first baseman and pitcher Zachary Taylor between the fifth and eighth frames. Things did not look good for the Crusaders as they approached the ninth inning.
That’s when everything changed.
The ninth and final frame started with a Taylor groundout, but then sophomore pinch-hitters Mark Peterson and Paul Scioli both drew walks. Sophomore Jordan Stickler would then reach on a fielder’s choice.
A muffed throw by the shortstop allowed Scioli to safely reach second. An error by the pitcher then allowed everybody to advance one base and for Perterson to score.
Now down 2-4, second baseman Josh Abalos smashed a ground ball to the Hendrix short stop, who bobbled the ball, preventing a play from being made and allowing two runs to score. The Crusaders had finally pulled even with the Warriors.
The Warriors were plagued by errors again as senior catcher Zach San Roman reached off of a throwing error by the third baseman. With UD runners on first and second, junior first baseman and outfielder Luke Boylson would smash a single into right field for the lone hit of the frame. Sophomore designated hitter Seth Hanson would then go on to hit a sacrifice fly to center, scoring Abalos and completing the rally.
“I think we were able to get things done really well,” freshman infielder and pitcher Stephen Byers said of the team’s performance this weekend. “We overcame some adversity in the late innings. Our pitching carried us through the early parts of the game, and our hitting came alive towards the end after some slow starts. But overall the team performed very well. For us to maintain the momentum into the season, we have to remain focused and take the games inning by inning and win each one.”
The second game would be won in similar fashion.
In game two of the weekend’s classic against the Tornadoes of Concordia University, the Crusaders would win again in their final team at-bat. It was a photo finish from the race gates as starting pitcher, senior Ryan Hammonds entered a pitching duel with the Hendrix pitcher, leaving it tied at only 2-2 after the seventh inning.
Patton would have the lone multi-hit game by UD, going 2-for-4 and hitting in UD’s only two RBIs.
The heroics that put UD over the top though, came from freshman utility Colby Davenport. After the game went into extra innings, he would knock his first collegiate hit in the bottom of the tenth.
After the Tornadoes’ leftfielder mishandled the ball, senior shortstop JP Fasone sprinted home and was dogpiled by his teammates as the Crusaders came back to win two consecutive nights.
No comeback was necessary against the Hardin-Simmons Cowboys as the UD Crusaders would post up six runs in that game and only give up three. Key during that game were 13 strikeouts from starting pitcher, freshman Conrad Voss, and relievers, freshman William Bresnahan and junior Kyle Gamez.
The Crusaders have not thrown this many strikeouts since March 19, 2011, against Southwestern University, when they threw fifteen combined.
“Perseverance and execution. A lot of freshman stepped up this weekend when they needed to,” freshman outfielder Nicholas Hovde said of the Crusader’s sweep this weekend. “I think we can keep this up by working hard in practice this week. There are some things we need to work on to get better. We have got exciting expectations for this season.”
The Crusaders were the only team out of six to go 3-0 at AirHogs Stadium this weekend. They improved all the way from 1-2 on the season to 4-2, turning a one-third winning percentage deficit into a two-thirds winning percentage surplus. Now that they have made their mark and left other teams behind in the dust, they will be a team to be reckoned with in the Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference this year.
The Crusaders continue pre-conference play this weekend with a three-game series at the Millsaps Tournament in Mississippi.
An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that this was the Crusaders opening weekend.