Crusaders hot at home in doubleheader

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Photo courtesy of UDallas Athletics

The University of Dallas baseball team started a seven game homestand with a pair of wins against the Beavers of Blackburn College on Sunday March 11th.  Both games lasted seven innings, as they were non-conference games.

“[The wins] were huge,” said Head Coach Joe Myers. “Coming off the Texas Wesleyan weekend, Texas Wesleyan is a very good team, so we wanted to continue building up some momentum that weekend right before conference.  Getting some wins going into conference play is really important.”

Dallas started game one with freshman lefty pitcher Tyler Montemayor on the mound, making his third start of the season.  The Beavers countered with their own lefty junior Jonathan Stepp.

In a game that featured several bizarre plays, the Crusaders scored first in the first inning on one such play. With junior shortstop Josh Abalos on third with one out, sophomore third baseman Nathan Patton hit a weak ground ball to first base. Abalos hesitated at third, and then broke for home once the ball bounced off Steen’s glove.  Steen overthrew the catcher and Abalos scored. Patton attempted to advance to second on the error. The catcher fielded the ball off the backstop and threw wide to second into center field. Patton advanced to third on the second error. He would later score on junior third baseman Mark Peterson’s RBI ground out to shortstop.

The most bizarre play of the game came in the top of the third inning. The Beavers were threatening with runners on first and second bases and one out. Freshman shortstop Joe Vondrachek called for a pickoff at second. The Crusaders caught runner Brandon Smith leading too far off the bag as Montemayor threw to Joseph Vondrachek covering second, forcing Smith into a rundown. Patton tagged out Smith near third base.  Patton then threw the ball across the diamond to first, where runner Walter Jarvis had taken too many steps away from the base. Jarvis was tagged out by Peterson as he was diving back into the bag, resulting in a highly unusual double pickoff.

“That double pickoff play was huge,” said Montemayor. “My shortstop Joe Vondrachek called for a pickoff right away, and we sold the move and had the runner off the bag at second. My fielders executed the rest of the play perfectly and the out at first was a bonus thanks to Nate Patton’s quick work.”

“The double pickoff was a great call by our freshman Vondrachek,” Myers said. “We executed that, and so then you say ‘okay, it was a bad baserunning read by the other team.’ We’ve been stressing catching and throwing the baseball at a high level and that was part of that. You can’t always practice those funky plays, that’s all reactionary and communication stuff. So, they did a great job of handling that on the defensive end.”

The Crusaders’ offense broke it open in the bottom of the fifth as Patton lined a two-run double into the left center field gap. Peterson followed with an RBI single and sophomore infielder Seth Hanson capped the rally with a three run homer, his second home run of the season.

Montemayor pitched a complete game, going seven innings with seven strikeouts, both career highs, while only allowing one run on four hits. Montemayor was the winning pitcher and improved to 2-1.

“Starting the game off with a win was a great start to the series for us,” said Montemayor. “It’s a major key to win that first game because it helps set the mood for the next game and for the rest of the series.”

“That was big for him,” said Myers. “We’re getting ready to play nine inning ball games next weekend. We have to get [Montemayor] to a certain pitch count to handle a nine inning game. For us it was a no brainer, he was still at a pitch count that we needed him to [be at], he had a few innings left, and so we told him in the fifth inning, ‘hey this is your game, go the whole way if you can.’ Obviously, for a young kid, a freshman, to be able to have a complete game and feel like everything is working, is going to be a big boost going into conference.”

Dallas won the game 9-1.

The second game featured the second lefty starter of the day for UD, freshman Jamie Wallace.  Blackburn started senior right hander Jarrett Sandlin.

Dallas battled back multiple times in the game, coming back from deficits in the first, third and fifth innings. After a walk and two singles by Blackburn to start the game, the Crusaders trailed 1-0. They then tied it in the bottom of the first behind junior centerfielder Jordan Stickler and Abalos.  Stickler walked, stole second and third, and scored on a ground out to first by Abalos.

The Crusaders fell behind again in the third. Wallace surrendered a lead off triple to left-center by outfielder Brandon Smith, who scored two batters later on second baseman Shane Lewis’ single up the middle. Again, Dallas fought back as Stickler scored on a sacrifice by Patton to tie the game, and Abalos scored on a sacrifice by Peterson to take the first UD lead of the game.

Dallas trailed for a third time in the fifth inning, as Blackburn retook the lead on a two-run single by Jarvis, knocking Wallace out of the game. The Beavers scored a third run on sophomore relief pitcher Conrad Voss as Voss threw a wild pitch that scored runner Nathan Bassett from third. The Crusaders answered one more time with RBI singles by Peterson and sophomore designated hitter Zach Taylor, tying the game at 5 runs each.

Dallas scored the final runs of the game in the sixth inning. After two quick outs, Stickler reached on an infield single. Abalos then lined a double into the right-center field gap that was cut off by Smith. The Crusaders were aggressive and sent Stickler home. He was safe at the plate as the ball got away from the catcher.

“With Josh up I knew that any ball not right at an outfielder I would be going home and putting the pressure on the defense to make a play,” said Stickler. “Josh crushed the ball into the gap to allow me to score for the go ahead run. I knew it was going to be a close play at home since the outfield was deep and cut it off, but the guys did a great job telling me where to slide.”

Peterson then added his own double, scoring Abalos, for the final run of the game. Dallas won game two 7-5.

With the two wins the Crusaders are 5-0 at home this season and improve to 7-8 overall. UD is also 4-1 in their last five games.

“What turned this around was when we decided to move Voss to the bullpen,” said Myers. “He was our ace last year, and we had [Montemayor] and Wallace throwing strikes, and we basically flipped the bullpen to starters and starters to bullpen. That has gotten our defense into a rhythm where they feel the ball could be put into play at anytime versus having some walks. The last four or five games we only had two or three errors combined. Earlier in the season we had three or four errors a game. We’re starting to play better baseball.”

Dallas will be looking to complete their sweep of Blackburn as the two teams will play the final game of their series on Monday the 12th. Game time will be at 1 PM.

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