ODESSA, Texas – Playing a unique half-Heartland Conference and half non-conference doubleheader, McMurry University split the twinbill with the University of Texas of the Permian Basin at Roden Field. The Falcons (18-22, 9-12 HC) won the opener (which counted in the league standings), 6-3, and the War Hawks (19-22, 11-12 HC) took the second game, 9-8.
In Game One, UTPB starter Lance Fairchild was dominating for eight innings, until a War Hawk rally in the ninth made things interesting. Through the first eight frames, Fairchild had allowed just one hit – a fourth inning single by Zack Hagan on a 3-2 pitch – and faced just two batters over the minimum.
The Falcons entered the ninth inning staked to a 6-0 lead on the scoreboard.
But in the top of the ninth, Jeremy Ruiz led off with a single through the left side of the infield for McM. Patrick Adams then grounded into a force out at second and moved over to third on Christian Simmon’s single to left.
Hagan, arguably McMurry’s hottest hitter, stepped up to the plate and delivered a double to right that scored both Adams and Simmons to make it 6-2.
AJ Dupre grounded out to second for the second out of the inning, and Hagan was not able to move over on the play. Designated hitter Ben Douglas then hit a roller to shortstop, which was misplayed, plating Hagan and leaving Douglas safely at first, 6-3.
That brought Eric Moritz to the plate, with the potential tying run on deck in the person of thirdbaseman Eric Preuss. That would be all for Fairchild, as UTPB summoned closer Jesse Arnold from the Falcons’ bullpen.
Arnold would retire Moritz on a swinging strikeout to end the McM uprising and earn the save.
McMurry starter Ben Bates (1-6) took the loss. Bates worked six full innings, permitting seven hits and four runs (two earned). He struck out three and walked two. Mitch Labbie tossed the final two innings and allowed two hits, as well as being charged with a pair of runs (one earned).
Hagan collect half of the War Hawks’ offense in the first game by going 2-for-4. Hagan also scored once and had the two RBI.
In Game Two, the visitors had their leadoff man reach in four of seven at-bats and scored in each of the first six innings of the game. The War Hawks raced out to a comfortable 6-0 lead after 3 ½ innings, they had to hang on for a less-than-comfortable finish.
Kyle Sargent opened the game with a single, was sacrificed to second and – with two down – scored on Durpe’s RBI base hit, 1-0.
In the McM half of the second, the War Hawks added three more off the bats of Ruiz with a two-run double and an RBI single through the left side by Simmons that made it 4-0. McM would put up single runs in the third and fourth innings for the 6-0 cushion.
UTPB put up four runs in its half of the fourth off of McM starter Caleb Gonzales. Gonzales was lifted after he was unable to get the last out of the inning and freshman Trevor Ragsdale was summoned to the mound.
Ragsdale got Andrew Grifol to fly out to center to end the threat by the Falcons and he also sailed through the fifth inning. McMurry gave Ragsdale a little more room by scoring twice itself in the top of the fifth and once more in the top of the sixth to make it 9-4.
Ragsdale – who had not allowed an earned run in 20 innings spread over six appearances – saw that string come to an end in a big way in the bottom half of the sixth. UTPB had its first four men reach base before an out was finally registered. A hit batter and a double for the next two Falcons pulled the curtain on Ragsdale’s day.
McM’s John Cortez came in with the go-ahead runs on base, but retired the next two UTPB players in order to close out the sixth.
A 1-2-3 seventh by the McMurry batters was the only time in the game that the War Hawks were set down in order.
Cortez easily got the first two outs in the bottom of the seventh, before UTPB’s Dan Andrade singled. With Trevor Sims at the plate, Andrade tried to steal second to get the tying run into scoring position. But McM catcher Zack Hagan, who used his bat effectively to beat teams all season, this time relied on his arm as he threw out Andrade on the attempted steal to end the game and preserve the 9-8 McMurry victory.
Despite the rough outing, Ragsdale was the pitcher of record for the win, improving to 3-1 on the year. Cortez picked up his first save of 2014, as well.
The War Hawks’ 15-hit attack was led by five players with two hits each: Sargent went 2-for-5 with two runs and one RBI; Simmons was 2-for-4 with an RBI; Hagan had a2-for-5 game with a run and an RBI; Preuss was 2-for-3 with two runs and two RBI, and; Ruiz was 2-for-4 with a run and three runs driven in.
Ruiz and Douglas each slapped doubles in the game for McM’s only extra-base hits. Every McMurry batter in the game – including substitutes – had at least one hit.
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