ABILENE, Texas – McMurry University’s baseball team battled St. Mary’s University - the nation’s No.3-ranked team in NCAA Division II - hard, but came up on the sort end in both games of a Heartland Conference doubleheader, 5-2 and 1-0, at Walt Driggers Field. The two teams conclude the three-game series on Friday at 1 p.m.
The Rattlers (16-4, 4-1 HC) were able to get three runs off of McM starter Lanny Zier in the second inning, with two of SMU’s four hits off of the War Hawk junior coming in that frame. After that, Zier (1-4) settled in.
McMurry (5-11, 3-4 HC) got a pair of runs back in the bottom of the fifth off of SMU starter Rene Solis (4-1). Zack Hagan had a leadoff single and stole second. Blake Smith then reached on a throwing error by Solis that allowed Hagan to score. That was followed by an RBI double from Greg Koll.
However, trailing 3-2 and with the potential tying run at second base, McMurry was unable to add any more runs to its side.
In the top of the sixth, the Rattlers added an insurance run, notching a two-out single, followed by an RBI double that chased Zier and made it 4-2. Trevor Daggon came on the get the final out of the sixth.
SMU added a solo run off of Daggon in the top of the seventh for the 5-2 final.
Zier took the loss, working 5 2/3 innings. He gave up four earned runs on the four hits. Zier struck out five and did not issue a walk. Daggon had two strikeouts and a walk in 1 1/3 innings.
St. Mary’s starter Rene Solis (4-1) went the complete seven innings. Solis scattered six hits and gave up just one earned run. He struck out six and – like Zier – did not issue a walk.
In game two, McMurry’s senior right-hander Joel DePorte locked horns with SMU ace Matt McClain. Both pitchers looked untouchable until late in the contest.
In the bottom of the seventh, it looked as though McMurry might get the chance at the upset. With two out, Hagan laced a double to the left-center field gap. Kyle Sargent then hit a grounder to second, but a bad throw to first was mishandled and Sargent was safe. Hagan, who was running on the swing, came around third and headed toward home when the ball was not handled cleanly. But SMU first baseman Joe Hermsen quickly recovered, picked up the ball and fired to catcher Keith Funk who was barely able to tag a sliding Hagan at the plate to retire the side.
Both pitchers got through the eighth unscathed. But in the top of the ninth, the Rattlers pushed across what proved to be the deciding run. Drake Roberts led off the inning with a single to right and was sacrificed to second. Pinch-hitter Nathan Humpal worked a 3-2 count for a base on balls, before Hermsen slapped a single through the right side that plated Roberts and signaled the end of DePorte’s (2-2) evening.
Eric Preuss came on to get the last two outs in the top of the ninth. But McClain set down the War Hawks in order in the bottom of the inning, to complete the Rattlers’ sweep.
McClain allowed five hits to McM. He struck out eight and issued just one walk in notching the shutout.
McMurry’s only hits in the game came from either Hagan or Nick Marsh. Hagan was 3-for-3 with the double in the second game, while Marsh went 2-for-4.