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Minor moves keeping ORU baseball on track as conference continues

There have been a lot of changes for the ORU baseball team since the season opened on Feb. 17 against Little Rock, but the Golden Eagles have continued to play well throughout their non-conference and early part of the Summit League schedule.

The rotation has probably seen the biggest change as junior Bryce Howe is no longer the team’s Friday night starter. Howe struggled as the team’s No. 1 starter this season and in his four starts is 0-1 with a staggering 9.28 ERA.

Some of Howe’s struggles can be linked to his control as he’s walked 13 batters in just 14 2/3 innings pitched, leading to a demotion to the bullpen. The right-hander has responded well recently making three solid appearances since his move to the bullpen with his fastball hitting the mid-90’s.

“He’s a team first guy and a leader in our clubhouse. He understood that he needed to pitch better and took it in stride,” said ORU Head Coach Ryan Folmar. “We feel like this role will not only help our ballclub, but help him going forward. He’s growing as a pitcher and the ball’s coming out really good right now.”

Junior Justin McGregor has stepped up and been a model of consistency for the Golden Eagles rotation. McGregor, who has made seven appearances (three starts), has filled in nicely in Howe’s place going 3-0 with a 1.66 ERA in 21 2/3 innings.

“I’ll be honest, there’s not a whole lot of difference from how we approach a mid-week game from a weekend game,” said Folmar. “Justin has pitched well in every role we’ve asked him to take. He’s been really consistent and all we’re asking him to is be the best version of Justin he can be.”

Change has come not only in the rotation for the Golden Eagles, but in the lineup. The change has brought the offense to life in recent weeks after being dormant to start the season. The team is hitting .320 (56-175) in their last five games and the middle of the lineup has started to generate more offense. Much of that success can be attributed to the team’s ability to hit the ball out of the ballpark. ORU has swatted 25 home runs in 20 games and ranks 13th in the NCAA. The team hit a season-high five homers in Tuesday’s win against Wichita State.

“I don’t think we’re really a power team. Don’t get me wrong we have a bunch of big guys that can hit the ball out of the ballpark, but I think we’re more of a fundamental, get ‘em over, get ‘em in type of team,” said third baseman Cal Hernandez, who hit his first Div. I home run Tuesday. “It’s been working for us and we have to keep executing and playing our game.”

Shortstop Dylan Snypes has also contributed  to the resurgence of the Golden Eagles’ offense. The State Line, Mississippi native has taken control of the lead-off spot after Nick Rotola broke his wrist.

Snypes is hitting .441 (15-34) as the team’s lead-off man and the shortstop leads the team in both batting average (.386), hits (32), runs scored (16) and doubles (9). He’s tied for 27th in the NCAA with nine doubles. Folmar says closer Brady Womacks (elbow) is a few weeks away from returning while Rotola’s return is more uncertain. The redshirt senior is in a cast after fracturing his wrist and will be re-evaluated in four weeks.

The Golden Eagles continue their conference schedule against South Dakota State  (9-7) this weekend. McGregor will take the ball for ORU against the Jackrabbits tonight. Both teams are 3-0 in conference play. First pitch is scheduled for 6:30 P.M. at J.L Johnson Stadium.