Baseball goes 3-1 before tough matchup
The UALR baseball team went 3-1 last week starting with a victory against Louisiana Tech 8-5 Tuesday, March 1, behind starting pitcher Calvin Drinnen’s (1-1, 4.22 ERA) efficient five and two-thirds innings, giving up one run while throwing 79 pitches. The Trojans lost to La. Tech 10-9 in 11 innings Feb. 22 in Ruston, La.
“It was a good win for us,” Trojan coach Scott Norwood said. “Cal threw really well. [When] you’re pitching ahead in the count, it makes it a lot easier to get people out.”
Norwood said it was the Trojans’ first win against La. Tech (8-3) since 2002. Senior first baseman Jake Rowell went 2-4, scoring two runs and knocking in two to lead the offense.
“I think we’re starting to play better,” Norwood said. “We’re swinging the bat better and kind of understanding what we want to do. The newness of the season is kind of wearing off.”
The Trojans (6-6) started a series with the Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne Mastodons (1-4) with a 2-0 victory Friday, March 4, behind the arm of senior righty Garrett Graziano. Graziano (2-1, 2.08 ERA) pitched eight innings of shut-out baseball, giving up three hits and striking out three.
“He pitched fantastic for us,” UALR pitching coach Brandon Rowan said. “He’s probably our most consistent guy starting-wise for sure. He uses his strengths to his advantage, keeps the ball down and commands three pitches for strikes. At this level, if you can command your off-speed and introduce your fastball, good things are going to happen for you.”
Junior right-fielder Hector Acosta supplied all the offense the Trojans would need with a sacrifice fly in the second inning. Junior catcher Nick Rountree went 2-3 with an RBI in the low-scoring affair.
Because of excessive rain Saturday morning, UALR had to play a double-header Sunday and put on an offensive explosion in the first game defeating IPFW 16-3. The two, three and four hitters (Jason Houston , Jake Rowell, and Justin Barnes) for the Trojans went a combined 8-13, scoring seven runs and recording nine RBIs.
Houston went 3-5 and scored four runs and two RBIs, Rowell went 3-4 with three runs and two RBIs, and Barnes went 2-4 with five RBIs. UALR scored five runs in the seventh inning, four of the runs coming with two outs.
“We got some clutch two-out hits,” Rowan said. “The key at this level is pitching, defense and timely two-out hitting. We really got some good production top-to-bottom, but the power guys in the middle really came through for us today when runners were in scoring position.”
Senior pitcher Daniel Golden (1-1, 6.00 ERA) pitched five innings and gave up five hits and three runs, but walked four batters in Sunday’s first game. Junior Nick Grimmet pitched three innings of hitless relief and struck out three.
“He kind of grinded out five innings,” Rowan said of Golden’s outing. “It was a kind of uncomfortable five innings, but he pitched well enough to get the win. He can definitely pitch better than what he showed [Sunday]. I still don’t think we’ve seen the best of him yet. I really don’t think he’s found his groove yet.”
The Trojans dropped the series finale 7-2. IPFW senior pitcher Daniel Walker (1-0, 2.00 ERA) pitched a complete game, giving up six hits while striking out nine. Junior Dillon Wilson (0-1, 12.00 ERA) pitched two and two-thirds innings, walking four and giving up five runs for the loss.
Houston went 2-3 with a run and RBI, and leads the Trojans in hitting with a .391 average and is tied for first in runs with senior Casey McCollum with 11. Barnes has 10 RBIs on the year to lead the team.
“We feel good about where we are at,” Rowan said. “We definitely dropped that last one [Sunday]that we didn’t need to slip through our fingers, but we’ve won four out of our last five.”
The Trojans travel to Norman, Okla. Friday, March 11, to play a series against No. 3-ranked Oklahoma Sooners.