The bats came out early and often for the Golden Eagles in a series sweeping victory over Little Rock 8-2 on Sunday afternoon.
ORU right fielder Noah Cummings started the hit barrage with a no-doubt, two-run homer to left to give the Golden Eagles a 2-1 lead. The Golden Eagles were looking to get aggressive after the team struck out 17 times on Saturday.
“I wanted to drive something deep to the outfield so that Matt [Whatley] could score. He threw me a fastball out over the plate and I got into it,” said Cummings of his two-run shot. “We figured out that Little Rock liked to get ahead with the fastball. We we’re looking to jump on that first-pitch fastball and put up eight runs today.”
The top of the order carried the load for the Golden Eagles after a quiet first two games. Nick Rotola, Nick Roark, Matt Whatley and Cummings went a combined 8 for 17 with five runs scored and drove in seven of the team’s eight runs. The team put 13 total hits up on the Trojans.
Rotola added his first home run of the season to give the Golden Eagles a 8-2 lead in the seventh inning.
Eight runs would be more than enough for ORU starting pitcher Miguel Ausua. His afternoon started off rocky as he gave up a lead-off home run to Little Rock second baseman Bryce Dimitroff giving Little Rock an early 1-0 lead. The Peñuelas, Puerto Rico native wouldn’t give up much after that holding the Trojans to just one run after the lead-off homer.
Ausua credited his success Sunday to the support of his teammates, both on the field and in the dugout. The big moment in the game for Ausua came in the fifth Inning when he got himself into a bases loaded, no outs jam. Little Rock slugger Dalton Thomas crushed a ball that looked to be over the head of Rotola in center field, but Rotola got a good jump and ran about 75 feet to track it down, doubling the runners up for a 8-4-6 double play.
“It was awesome, it was pretty hard to sleep. Pretty big emotions, but I think I handled myself pretty well. The lead-off home run to start the game was a mistake pitch, after that I just settled in, spotted some pitches and shook it off,” said Ausua. “My teammates never let me down. That big play Nick Rotola made in center helped me out and changed the game.”
It was the first ORU victory in Ausua’s first career Div. I start going five innings scattering five hits and allowing two earned runs. He walked three and fanned three hitters. The win also moved ORU to 3-0 on the season and is the first time the Golden Eagles have started a season 3-0 since 2009 and the 17th time in school history.
The Golden Eagles face a tough challenge in their first mid-week matchup of the season when highly touted MLB draft prospect Jake Burger and the Missouri State Bears come to town on Tuesday afternoon. Junior Justin McGregor will make his first start of the season for the Golden Eagles. McGregor made his ORU debut in the season opener throwing three scoreless innings striking out four hitters. First pitch is scheduled for 3 P.M. at J.L. Johnson Stadium.
“Missouri State’s another good club and as you look at our schedule, we got a lot of good one’s coming up. We’re going to have to play well to navigate it, but that’s the fun part too,” said Folmar.
Noah Cummings led the Summit League in hitting in 2016 and started working on defending his title in 2017. Cummings went 5-12 (.417) in the series against Little Rock and is currently the team leader in hits (5) and RBI (6). Cummings was pleased with the way his team played and wants to maintain their current level of play.
“We just gotta keep playing sound defense, we didn’t make an error this entire series,” said Cummings. “Keep pitching well, trusting our lineup and executing.”
Sam Grellner struggled in his first weekend in the designated hitter role. The senior struck out in four of his five official plate appearances. However, Grellner did show a good eye at the plate working four walks, which ties him for the team-lead with Whatley.
Bullpen Showing Life
The Golden Eagles bullpen was strong in the first series of the season. ORU relievers threw a combined 14 2/3 innings allowing just three earned runs, walking two hitters and striking out 20.