It took two days to decide the outcome, but the Golden Eagles were able to do just enough to squeeze past the Jackrabbits 7-6 in Saturday afternoon’s resumed game.
Catcher Matt Whatley led the bottom of the 13th inning with a sharp single to center field and Brent Williams walked following Noah Cummings strikeout. Right fielder Sam Grellner finished the Jackrabbits off lacing a single down the left field line to win it for ORU.
“Last night was obviously sloppy, both teams were, but we found a way,” said Head Coach Ryan Folmar. “We were able to scratch a run across after the game resumed and Sam comes through with a two-out hit.”
Prior to being suspended Friday night due to weather, the Jackrabbits started to make things interesting in the top of the seventh after a pair of walks by reliever Trevor McCutchin, Jacks second baseman Nick Smith singled in a pair to make it a 6-5 game.
Redshirt junior Kyler Stout came on in the ninth inning to for ORU, but the outing did not go as planned. Stout walked the lead-off hitter and following a sacrifice bunt, left fielder Phil Veldez singled to center and scoring the tying run. The run was just the first run Stout has given up this season and his first blown save.
The Golden Eagles trailed 3-1 early before the bats finally came to life in the bottom of the fifth inning. ORU would bat around sending 10 men to the plate capped off by left fielder Michael Hungate’s a two-out, two-run double off the base of the wall in left scoring Nick Roark and Matt Whatley and giving ORU a 4-3 lead in the fifth. Two more runs would cross the plate for ORU in the inning on a bases-loaded walk by Cal Hernandez and RBI-single by Dylan Snypes.
ORU starter Justin McGregor did not have his best stuff Friday night as he struggled with his control, walking five Jackrabbits in the game and struck out just one. South Dakota State would take advantage of that in the fifth inning.
After a lead-off walk and wild pitch from McGregor, South Dakota State third baseman Newt Johnson singled to center to give the Jackrabbits a 2-1 lead. First baseman Matt Johnson followed with a single of his own and error by ORU right fielder Sam Grellner would allow an additional run to score and give the Jackrabbits a 3-1 lead.
Reliever Bill Lovvorn continued his solid start to the season. The side winder pitched three scoreless innings and lowered his season ERA to a stellar 1.15.
“I thought Bill was the difference in that first game. He really was,” said Folmar. “He gave us a chance to win. Pitched three strong innings and we were able to get it done.”
The Golden Eagles didn’t leave it up to chance in their second game on Saturday afternoon, powering past the Jackrabbits 11-5 in Game 2, taking the series in the process.
ORU almost wasted an opportunity early after loading the bases, but Snypes came through for the Golden Eagles, lining a bases-clearing double to the gap in right. Second baseman Nick Roark followed with an RBI-single to make it a 4-0 game.
The Jackrabbits showed the same fight they did in Game 1 against Josh McMinn Saturday afternoon. After ORU batted around in the fourth inning, South Dakota State did the same in the top of the fifth inning. South Dakota State designated hitter Anthony Schneider’s two-run single got the Jackrabbits on the board and error by Snypes made it a 4-3.
The Golden Eagles would not wait around for the Jackrabbits to make a comeback and got separation from South Dakota State adding three runs in the fourth inning and four additional runs in the fifth, seventh and eighth innings. Noah Cummings added his sixth homer of the season in the eighth inning.
The big swing in the inning came off the bat of Whatley crushing a towering two-run home run to the deep part of left-center field to give ORU a 7-3 lead. Whatley has reached base in all 22 of ORU’s games this season. He finished the game going 3 for 4 with his fifth homer of the season and two RBI.
“My approach is to hunt fastball up in the zone and I got a breaking ball up and was able to sneak it out of here,” said Whatley. “We know what type of team we are and it’s important for us when we get up to keep our foot on the gas pedal and put teams away.”
Sophomore Josh McMinn pitched well and earned his team-leading fourth win of the season. McMinn’s sole hiccup came in the third inning when he gave up three runs, but settled down. The Oklahoma City, Oklahoma native finished the game going six innings giving up just three earned runs on six hits. He walked two hitters and struck out seven.
“Being able to get bullpens during the week have really helped me this season. Last year pitching out of the bullpen, I had to figure a lot of things out in games and didn’t have a lot of time to figure things out with Sned on my side days,” said McMinn. “That’s been the biggest thing for me in my growth as a pitcher this season.”
-The Golden Eagles managed just nine hits in Game 1 snapping their streak of seven straight games with double-digit hits. The team now has double-digit hits in 9 of their last 11 games with 14 hits in Game 2.
-Whatley walked four times in Game 1, which is the most by a Golden Eagle this season. The record for walks in a game by a player is six, set back in 1983.
-ORU has played three extra-inning games this season and all three games have gone 13 innings. The previous two being on Feb. 18 against Minnesota and March 3 against Minnesota.
The next game for ORU will be tomorrow afternoon when the Golden Eagles take on South Dakota State in Game 2 of the series. Junior Miguel Ausua (3-2, 3.38 ERA) will take the mound for ORU. First pitch is scheduled for 12 p.m. at J.L. Johnson Stadium.