Looming cold fronts have left the baseball team’s schedule in tatters as head coach Rick Sabath has scrambled to reassemble it.
A 10-degree wind chill caused two of the games on Sunday against the University of Arkansas-Fort Smith (0-2) to be cancelled, and in an attempt to make up for the loss of the games, head coach Rick Sabath put together a doubleheader at home against Bethany College (0-4) starting at 2 p.m. today.
Also, forecasted snow showers on Friday will force the pair of doubleheaders against Avila University (2-0) to be moved back a day to Saturday and Sunday.
“With it being this early in the season, I’m fearful of injury,” Sabath said. “I don’t want guys standing around for long periods of time (in the freezing cold) and having to make quick movements. It is not like football where they are constantly moving.”
Junior catcher Sloan Soulia said his team welcomes the schedule change even if it means playing six games over the course of four days.
“We have been preparing to play since September,” Soulia said. “We are all ready to go. We might get tired and be a little sore, but we want to get playing. I don’t think having six games in a four-day span will hurt us at all.”
On Saturday, the Tigers (2-0) took advantage of fair weather and swept UAFS 7-4 and 4-3 at Larks Park.
“I was extremely happy our team started the season with two wins,” Sabath said. “Anytime we can do that, it is obviously a positive.”
FHSU found itself down 1-0 early in the first game but exploded with a seven-run second inning to take its first and final lead.
Junior first baseman Kyle Stacken and freshman shortstop Kelton Rule started it off with a pair of doubles, tying the game 1-1 as Stacken scored.
Junior catcher Ryan Majercik allowed Rule to score with an RBI single to take the lead.
Freshman third baseman Trent Mauler executed a bunt, and freshman Chris Santascoy scored Majercik with an RBI single.
After Mauler scored off a sacrifice fly, two were left on base, which set the scene for Soulia to deliver the final blow to UAFS: a three-RBI homerun.
“I just happened to square up on it, and it went out,” Soulia said. “That pretty much put a damper on Fort Smith. It put us up enough that the momentum was on our side, and they had no chance of coming back from there.”
The Tigers nearly lost the game in the third inning. Junior pitcher Andy Lewton, who struggled in his first outing, allowed the bases to get loaded and gave up a run.
Lewton pitched two innings and gave up four hits and two earned runs.
“Hopefully, (Lewton) has got that rough outing out of the way, and he will be able to bounce back and throw well next time,” Sabath said.
Junior Kyle Oestreicher came in to relieve Lewton. Oestreicher gave up no hits and only two grounders that turned into three outs.
A grounder to third ended in a force-out at home, and Rule turned a grounder into a double play.
“Kelton Rule made a great play diving to his left and to double up the guy,” Sabath said. “That particular play of Rule’s and the bullpen performance of Ostreicher changed the complexion of the game entirely.”
Ostreicher finished the game surrendering only one hit and no earned runs in four innings.
Senior pitcher Garrett Morgan came in during the final inning to pick up the save.
In the second game, the Tigers surrendered all three runs in the first inning off a three-run homerun.
FHSU came back in the bottom of the first as Soulia scored two off a homerun to left centerfield. It was his second of the day.
“It is always nice to hit homeruns but the whole point is to keep the ball in the middle of the field and in between the gaps,” Soulia said. “Getting those two homeruns was nice because it helped us out, but I wish I would have got some more hits.”
Junior left fielder Clint Bieberle tied the game in the third inning with a solo homerun, and Soulia drove in the final run of the game on a fielder’s choice.
“Sloan was recruited here as a guy to hit in the middle of the order,” Sabath said. “He watched some tough pitches and put a ball in play to give us the 4-3 lead in game two.”
Senior pitcher Sean Bartholomew pitched six innings and struck out eight batters. He gave up six hits and surrendered three runs.
“(Bartholomew) was outstanding,” Sabath said. “He was able to mix four pitches for strikes: his fastball, curveball, slider and changeup. … Six innings the first time out, we really couldn’t have asked for much more from him.”
Morgan and senior pitcher Mat Atkinson came in for 1.1 and 1.2 innings of relief, respectively, and Atkinson picked up the save.
“It is a luxury to have those experienced guys at the end of the game,” Sabath said. “I felt good about the wins, but after just two games, we still have plenty to work on.”