By Alexander Haynes
A lot can happen in three games, especially concerning the way the Bobcats have been playing. With the mid-week Baylor game being suspended, the Bobcats were left dwelling on a 0-1 loss to McNeese State. This was a series in which the tone would have
to be set by the veterans; a series which could set a tone for March. Not every moment was fun, or even positive, but the veterans accomplished three wins, bringing out the broom and boom sticks in a trio of bizarrely, human and tragic baseball games.
The Bobcats took over the first match of the series, winning 13-0 in a flash of electricity, then utter silence. The story of the game was starter Nicholas Fraze working through batters in an unabbreviated fashion and the offense posting a circus on the base paths. The Bobcats 10 strikeouts to nine walks and 11 left on base was a bag of mixed results which showed the variety the Bobcats went to dominate on the evening.
Nine runs in the second and the other four in the fourth is strikingly reminiscent of previous games. The scoring began when Luke Sherley scored a two-run homerun on a 1-1 count. Derek Scheible followed with a three-run homerun. Operating at will, Jonathan Ortega and Jaylen Hubbard stole second respectively, with each scoring shortly thereafter. The second began with the Bobcats powering swings and ended with plate patience after the Lumberjacks pitching staff began painting out of the strike zone.
The bottom of four came to signs of more plate patience putting together scoring runs. Dylan Paul and Jared Huber were hit by pitches to set up a Jacob Almendarez RBI single to extend the lead 10-0. There was a lack of urgency to power hits as Scheible took a 10 pitch at-bat as a walk, and then Ortega singly sampling to make the lead 12-0. Ryan Newman finished the team’s scoring with a sacrifice-fly, notating how successful the lineup can be when they choose to string together plays by sticking to an identity.
Fraze’s performance was more laborious than last week – he survived seven innings and 28 batters with a higher count of 109 pitches. A low of three walks, while forcing a variety of fly-outs (seven) and ground outs (eight), shows that he can stay clean and adapt to any batter. That style of pitching will go far in helping the Bobcats stay competitive against different teams. Endurance is necessary to limit the appearance of what has thus far been a shaky bullpen.
First Five Innings
The awkward weather on Saturday forced an early postponement. Texas State and Stephen F. Austin went through the first five innings, but left the latter four to be played at noon on Sunday.
The presumptive tone was set by Connor Reich in the first inning, striking out the first two batters. Scheible got on base after being plunked two pitches in, subsequently stealing second. Ortega would fly-out to the in-field, but a throwing error resulted in Scheible heading to third. The shock of the error resulted in another terrible throw, and Scheible scrambled home. Unfortunately for Texas State, without the aid of errors or walks, the offense was dead. Despite scoring, the first hit would not be recorded until Paul hit a single in the third. Then, in the same inning, the Lumberjacks catcher and coach both received ejections.
While Reich was confident throughout the game, he was dangerously spraying the edge of the plate. The Lumberjacks caught on, and two of their batters walked in the top of the fourth. A subsequent fielding error let Nic Minor advance to third, with a combination of weather and inattentive pitching allowing Minor to score on a pass ball. And just as the Bobcats sole score of the outing, it was produced without a hit preceding or following.
As the weather turned even more cloudy, so did the defense. In the bottom of five, the Lumberjacks again let runners on base due to erratic pitching (Hubbard and Ortega) or walks (Paul). Even a frustrating at-bat for Sherley turned positive when Paul and Hubbard stole, setting up another wild pitch to take the 2-1 lead heading into a weather delay.
The Last Four
Baseball is a game of unexpected incidence creating unforgettable moments; the first five innings proved that. As Zachary Leigh took over at noon Sunday to finish the game, both teams were under a refreshed sky, a hopeful sign for a game which hardly featured actual hitting of the ball the evening before.
The sixth inning saw the Bobcats lineup create some momentum of their own, with Ortega and Hubbard producing after Scheible stubbornly walked. A Paul sacrifice fly, Ortega staling home, and Sherley lining through the middle for Hubbard to score opened the lead 5-1.
Leigh was struggling to close out pitchers, going through 42 pitches in three innings of “relief.” He was haunted, however, by more errors from sloppy play. In fact, neither of his two-runs allowed were earned. Brayden Theriot finished the game in an atrocious ninth inning, walking three batters and throwing 28 pitches. No matter, the 6-3 win was in the records at the end of nine bizarrely, inhumane innings of wonder.
Nine Innings of Trepidation
Those inhumane innings may have been bizarre, but baseball is another way of writing a Shakespearean tragedy – a patter of human behavior that seems destined to either leave hearts broken or floating at the end of nine innings. One pitch at the climax of the game
can insert a twist so sudden and gut-wrenching, and with one side destined to receive that shot, fear grips the stadium as time stands frustratingly still.
The abbreviated rest left that notion on the game; both the Lumberjacks and Bobcats were seeking some hint of hope in achieving the win. And although the series was already in the hands of the Bobcats, this game carried more weight than the first. The Lumberjacks made their case in the first inning following Brandon Lewis hitting lead-off hitter Nick Daley. In an authoritative tone, Daley stole second, scoring off a double from Jared Martin.
Down 2-0 after the first frame created a sense of urgency in the Bobcats lineup. Scheible was instantaneously walked, but power shots only taunted Ortega, Paul and Hubbard as they died in the deep outfield. Even more taunting was the 4-0 lead the Lumberjacks had off a home run after the top of three.
Scheible momentarily interrupted the dry spell at the bottom of three, scorching a proverbial home run after a had swing and miss. The decision to walk him in the first was reflectively proverbial. In the next frame, Sherley walking created the momentum needed for Mickey Scott to send him home on a game-shaping nine-pitch at bat. Although the Lumberjacks still led 4-3 after Felipe Rodriguez sent Scott home, it felt only a matter of time before the angry at-bats resulted in function.
The natural poetry of baseball, however, demanded that the Lumberjacks added two more runs after Broce Bosse replaced Lewis in the fifth. The trio of Paul, Ortega and Scheible assembled to process a run in the fifth, then went through an incredulous amount of batters to bring the score to 5-6 at the bottom of nine.
Juxtaposed to the laborious and unconsolidated at-bats earlier in the game, the ninth inning was set for the afore mentioned trio to epitomize why they are the veteran leaders on the team. Scheible received the lead-off walk, followed with Ortega sneaking in a risky, but precise bunt attempt.
The stomach wrenching shot came from Paul, who tripled to center on a reverberating hit not only for the Bobcats to secure the 7-6 victory (thanks to an ironic fielding error), but a hit that ought to carry over throughout the season. The Bobcats could have felt the tragedy of revenge on Sunday, but the veterans came through to finish the game.
That veteran prose will be the demeanor which foretells the story and underlying statistics of the Bobcats 2018 season.
Featured image by Nicole Wolf.