ABILENE, Texas – A two-run home run by Ben Douglas in the fourth and a five-run outburst in the sixth inning propelled McMurry University to a 7-4 non-conference win over NCAA Division I foe Abilene Christian University, in a cross-town battle at Crutcher Scott Field. The win by the War Hawks (20-22) was their first-ever in eight tries against the Wildcats (14-23).
McM has now won seven of its last 10 games and four-out-of-five.
A leadoff double by ACU in the bottom of the first inning was eventually converted into a 1-0 lead by the host Wildcats. But McMurry starter Joel DePorte blanked ACU for its next two turns at bat.
McM could not do much, either, against Wildcats’ starter Ladgie Zotyka, with just one base hit through the first three frames. Trailing 1-0 and with two out in the top of the fourth, the War Hawks wrested the lead.
Firstbaseman AJ Dupre was hit by a pitch on the top of his left foot and hobbled down to first base, bringing designated hitter Douglas to the plate. Douglas – who leads the McMurry team in extra-base hits – promptly slammed his first home run of the season over the right-field fence, making it 2-1.
The blast would be Douglas’ (1-4) only hit of the afternoon.
The Wildcats started a rally of their own in the bottom half of the fourth, cued when ACU firstbaseman Gunnar Buhner slammed a ball off of DePorte’s leg which ricocheted all the way from the mound to the home dugout on the first-base side. A walk, a base hit and two sacrifices later, the Wildcats had plated two runs and also re-taken the lead, 3-2.
An uneventful fifth made way for the top of the sixth inning, where McMurry would break the game open, sending a total of nine batters to the plate.
Dupre drew a leadoff walk and McM head coach John Byington sent in pinch runner Blake Smith, with Dupre still favoring his foot. After a pop out by Douglas, Eric Moritz and Eric Preuss slapped back-to-back singles, with Preuss’ driving home Smith to knot matters at 3-3.
But McMurry was far from finished.
Pinch hitter Patrick Adams’ two-out single to right scored Moritz and with Preuss moving up to second, giving McMurry the lead once again. That brought up leadoff man Kyle Sargent, who smacked his sixth triple of the season that scored both Preuss and Adams.
Christian Simmons then blooped a double to left that allowed Sargent to march home with the fifth run of the inning and putting the War Hawks up, 7-3.
Byington stuck with DePorte for the sixth inning and – despite giving up one more run – the senior left the game in position to win, with some outstanding help from his bullpen.
Ahead now by a 7-4 margin with three innings left, Ben Bates tossed a hitless seventh and eighth, facing the minimum.
That left it up to Mitch Labbie for the ninth. Labbie gave up one hit, but was undeterred in notching his third save of the season by shutting down the Wildcats.
DePorte improved to 6-4 on the year with the win. He allowed ACU nine hits and four runs, three earned. He struck out three and walked two.
McMurry’s Nos. 1 and 2 spots in the order had four of the team’s hits, as McM out-hit ACU by an 11-9 margin. Sargent and Simmons both went 2-for-5 at the top of the lineup.
Moritz collected three hits (3-for-4) and scored once. Adams was 2-for-2 after entering the game in the sixth.
McMurry will next be in action this coming Friday (April 25), hosting the University of Arkansas-Fort Smith in a Heartland Conference doubleheader at 3 p.m. at Walt Driggers Field. The same two teams will play a single game on Saturday (1 p.m.) to close out the three-game series.
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