Baseball Bounces Back at Home Opener (Photo Essay)

Reed Butz completes a pitch Sunday afternoon against #5 Bellvue University.

Emily Loughridge, Editor-in-Chief

USAO’s baseball program (8-5) hosted Friends University (4-6) and #5 Bellvue University (4-2) for a three-day series. After the Cajun Collision, #19 USAO were looking to get back on top. After three long days in the elements, USAO ended the weekend with a four-game win streak.

Friday evening began with USAO facing off against Friends University. In the first inning, a few Drovers made it onto the bases. To put USAO on the board, Gage Gaunt singled up the middle to scored Nick Fleckenstein putting the Drovers up 1-0. Josh Harrel started on the bump for the Drovers, where he pitched through seven innings. Across his time pitching, Harrel allowed one run off seven hits. He also struck out nine batters.

Both teams found success in the field, but troubles at the plate. Until the bottom of the sixth inning, when Christopher Martinez singled and earned an RBI when Fleckenstein crossed home plate again. Going into seventh inning USAO a 2-0 lead over the Falcons. USAO returned to the plate in the bottom of the seventh, where they brought in their final run of the game off a hit from Fleckenstein.

Boone Lasater took Harrel’s place pitching for one inning where he allowed zero runs off one hit. For the final inning, Alden Norquist led the Drovers from the bump. Norquist also allowed zero runs off one hit. He also recorded two strikeouts. For USAO, they recorded three runs off ten hits. Fleckenstein led with three hits, and he was closely followed by Gabriel Arroyo and Gaunt who had two apiece.

The Drovers carried their momentum into Saturday early afternoon when USAO played Friends University again. Kaden Alexander pitched six innings for the Drovers, and in that time he allowed three runs off seven hits. Alexander struck out 11 batters. The Falcons found their five runs in the first, third, and seventh innings. In all cases, the Drovers responded with runs of their own. In the first inning, USAO got a 7-1 jump over Friends University. These runs came off of hits from Ben Lawson and Martinez, and USAO using their time at the plate wisely.

In the second inning, Gavin Machado sent a three-run homerun over the fence to boost USAO’s lead to 10-1. In the third inning, the Falcons found two more runs. In response, the Drovers scored six more runs in the bottom of the fifth. The Falcons started off the fifth inning with three walks to load the bases. Then two singles from William Hoch and Ryan Duncan brought in two runs. Two additional runs came from a pair of sacrifice flies from Luke Lewis and Gunnar Hansen. By the end of the sixth inning, USAO had built their lead up 17-3. In one final effort, the Falcons added three runs to the board making the final score 17-5.

Jacob Williams and Brian Ereu finished the final inning together. The duo struck out two batters, and allowed three runs off one hit. For USAO’s offense, they scored 17 runs off 11 hits. Martinez led with three hits with Hoch following him with two.

USAO wrapped up their busy weekend with two games against Bellvue University. Fleckenstein and Martinez got the Drovers on the board when Martinez doubled to right field to bring Fleckenstein home in the first inning. USAO continued to stack runs together in the second and third. Gaunt sent a ball out of the park to earn his second homerun of the season and earn three RBIs. This set the Drovers ahead 5-0 in the bottom of the third. The Bruins finally responded in the fifth with a sacrifice fly to bring in their first run of the game. USAO rallied together to bring three more runs in, which gave them the 8-2 win over the previously undefeated Bruins.

Megumi Fukuda started on the mound for the Drovers, where he stayed for six innings. In his time there, Fukuda recorded five strikeouts, seven walks, and two runs on three hits. For the final inning, Norquist made his way back to the bump. In that short time, he struck out two batters. On the other hand, the Drovers recorded eight runs off eight hits. Gaunt led in RBIs with three, and Duncan followed him with two.

The final game of the weekend started with a healthy lead for the Drovers. The crew brought four runs across the plate in the first. Peyton McDowall earned two RBIs off of a homerun. Hoch also found himself a two-run homerun in the bottom of the third, which put USAO up 7-0. USAO really found their rhythm in the fourth inning, where they brought seven more runs across the plate, making the score 14-0. The Bruins were still searching for their first hit of the game. Bellvue University eventually found it with a one-run homerun in the top of the sixth. Another homerun for the Bruins followed in the seventh, which gave them their final runs of the game. USAO won 14-3, giving the Bruins their second loss of the season.

Reed Butz pitched the first five inning for the Drovers. Butz struck out 11 batters, walked five, and allowed zero runs off of one hit. JD Prather pitched during the sixth inning, where he struck out one batter, walked one, and allowed one run off of two hits. To wrap up the game, Lasater struck out one batter, walked another, and allowed two runs off of two hits.

USAO’s offense was sharp in this final game with a total of 14 runs, 11 hits, 13 RBIs, and four walks. Fleckenstein, McDowall, and Hoch all had two hits. McDowall and Hoch led with three RBIs apiece. Ryan Rodriguez and Martinez had two RBIs each.

The Drovers will be back in action against McPherson College Saturday, February 25th at 1 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. at Bill Smith Ballpark. The series will continue onto Sunday, where the teams will play two more games with game one at 12 p.m. and game two at 2:30 p.m.


Emily Loughridge is a second-year Commuication major at the University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma.