The Missouri Western baseball team spent this past weekend in Russellville, Arkansas, taking on Arkansas Tech University.
The Griffons lost two of three games to the Wonder Boys, both by one run. Head coach Buzz Verduzco believes it will be a good learning experience for the team.
“You just can’t simulate competition like this in practice,” Verduzco said.
The first game of the series started at 1 p.m. on Saturday. Junior Richard Peoples started for the Griffons.
His start foreshadowed the kind of pitching the Griffons would receive from their pitching staff over the three-game series. Peoples went 6.1 innings, yielding four runs and six hits.
“Not what we anticipated coming from the mound,” Verduzco said.
Left fielder Nick Gawly took advantage of the Arkansas Tech pitching in game one. Gawly went five for five with a double, walk and a stolen base. First baseman Cosimo Cannella drove in two runs on his only hit of the game. Western led 6-1 after six innings. It was in the seventh inning that the Arkansas Tech offense came alive, scoring five runs. Western answered in the eighth on an Alex Heuring home run.
Arkansas Tech tied the game in the ninth inning, giving the fans in Russellville free baseball. It was in the 12th inning that relief pitcher Weston Caindec gave up an RBI single to Parker O’Dell, giving Arkansas Tech the win.
Missouri Western dominated in the rubber match of the series, winning 10-5. The offense scored at least one run in every inning except the second. Leading the charge was Cannella who went 3-3, with a double and four RBIs. Catcher Brandon Downs also had a good day at the plate, going 4-4 with three RBIs.
“Our offensive approach was very good,” Verduzco said.
Pitcher Alex Clavet received the win for the Griffons. Clavet went five innings, yielding five hits and five runs. Western was able to preserve some of their arms in the second game, using only three pitchers. Chris Estrada started the sixth inning, but after giving up a hit and a walk, he was pulled for Preston Bailey. Bailey finished the game with two scoreless innings and three strikeouts. The staff combined for nine hits, five earned runs, four walks and six strikeouts.
Western played the final game of the series on Sunday afternoon and they again fell short, losing 7-6. Arkansas Tech scored a run in each of the first two innings. After the Griffons failed to score in the first four innings, the offense finally showed life in the fifth inning by scoring three runs. Second baseman David Glaude started the scoring with a homerun to right field. Downs followed that up by driving in two runs on with a double.
“He seems more aggressive,” said Verduzco. “He was very tentative last year.”
Western’s pitching was unable to hold that lead, giving up four runs in the bottom of the fifth.
The Griffons’ offense was able to get a run in the sixth and two in the seventh, but were shutout in the eighth and ninth. Glaude and Downs led the Griffons with three hits each, combining for three RBIs. Western’s pitching combined to give up 12 hits, six runs and eight walks.
Western’s offense showed what it is capable of in this series. They out hit their opponents 36-32, scored three more runs and two more walks than their opponents. The pitching will have to improve if they hope to compete in the MIAA this season. The Griffons had two more walks than Arkansas Tech, and that was with the Western pitching staff combining to hit eight batters. Arkansas Tech batted .323 in the series, with only 13 strikeouts.
“We knew that Tech was very good offensively and that it was going to be a test,” said Verduzco.
Missouri Western will take another trip to Arkansas this weekend to partake in the HSU Spring Invitational. The Griffons will play at noon Friday against Henderson State University. They will play Ouachita Baptist University at noon Saturday, followed by another matchup with Arkansas Tech at 3 p.m. In the final game of the invitational they will go up against Ouachita Baptist again at noon Sunday.