After winning the first game of it’s season-opening series, Missouri Western baseball dropped two straight to fall in it’s opening series to No. 26 North Alabama in Florence, Ala.
“I was very happy with our starting pitching and very happy with the way we played defense,” Coach Buzz Verduzco said. “I think we still have to find ourselves when it comes to the bullpen as far as how we are going to use each guy in what situation. We still have some unanswered questions as far as the relief goes.”
Pitcher Brandon Simmons led the Griffons to a 4-1 victory in the opening game of the series. Simmons went seven innings and gave up only one earned run while striking out six batters and giving up six hits.
Grant Fink hit 2-for-3 for the Griffons and singled in Spencer Shockley to give the Griffons a 1-0 lead in the second inning. David Chew hit a RBI single to score Michael Schulze to give the Griffons a 2-0 lead. Fink scored on a wild pitch in the fifth inning to give the Griffons a 3-0 cushion. Bubba Dotson added a solo home run in the eighth inning to seal up the victory for Western.
“Hitting was a little disapointing. We took too many pitches and we weren’t as aggressive as we tried to be before we got off the bus,” Verduzco said. “We struck out way too many times looking with too many guys on base. We just overall kind of let the pitcher and the umpire dictate the strike zone and didn’t really change things by our aggressiveness.”
North Alabama got the bats going in game two with Matt Bergin on the mound as the Griffons lost 7-2. Bergin went four innings and gave up five hits.
Fink put the Griffons on the board and tied the game at 1-1 after scoring on a sacrifice fly in the third inning. The game was tied until the fifth when North Alabama scored three runs in the fifth inning.
Western countered with a run as Chew singled in Jake Graham in the sixth, but North Alabama scored three more runs in the bottom of the sixth to seal up the 7-2 victory. The Griffons only totaled four hits in game two of the series.
“If you notice who got all the hits and who were the productive offensive guys, it was the guys who were aggressive.” Verduzco said.
Pitcher Nik Jarudo went 7.1 innings for the Griffons and struck out nine batters while only giving up five hits, but it wasn’t enough as North Alabama took the final game of the series 5-3 to improve to 7-2 on the season.
The Griffons got out to a 2-0 lead in the second inning as Chew and Schulze crossed home plate. Chew doubled in Schulze and Fink batted in Chew with a single.
Jarudo gave up his first run in the fourth inning off a sacrifice fly, but the Griffons still held a 3-1 lead after Graham batted in Tony Loeffller with a double.
The North Alabama bats came alive in the eighth inning as the Lions scored four runs on three hits after taking advantage of an error by the Griffons.
The Griffons tried to rally in the bottom of the ninth inning with a pair of singles with two out, but it wasn’t enough. Pitcher Ethan Ward took the loss in relief after giving up a run.
“I was happy with our energy. I felt like we were ready to play so all those were positives and now we just have to learn to do that on a consistent basis whether we are home or away.” Verduzco said.