McMurry University junior right-handed pitcher Lanny Zier gave a dominating performance in the first game (6-0) of the doubleheader at Rogers State University and the team saw a furious rally fall just short in the second (8-7), splitting the Heartland Conference twinbill.
The rubber game of the series is on Saturday at RSU. Start time has been moved ahead to Noon due to concerns about weather.
Zier was masterful in the series' opener for McMurry (7-13, 4-6 HC), virtually shutting down the Hillcats (12-8, 5-6 HC) at every turn. In notching his second shutout of the season, Zier faced just one batter over the minimum and did not allow an RSU player to reach second base. He struck out five and walked two.
In the bottom of the second, RSU's Blake Gipson slapped a leadoff single, but was promptly erased when the next batter, Ryan Hendricks, hit into a double play. Logan Palmer then coaxed a two-out, four-pitch walk from Zier, but that was followed by a ground out to end the inning.
In the bottom of the third, Zier retired the first two batters before issuing a base on balls to Alex Cochran. But Cochran was cut down attempting to steal by War Hawk catcher Greg Koll for the third out.
Beyond that, Zier retired the Hillcats in order in the other five frames.
With his sterling outing versus RSU, Zier improved his personal record to 2-4 and upped his team-leading strikeout total to 32 in 43 1/3 innings. He also lowered his earned run average to 3.32 and opponents are now hitting a miniscule .186 against him.
Meanwhile, Zier would get all the run support he would need from his teammates in the top of the first inning of game one. Nick Marsh drew a one-out walk, which was followed by an infield single from Zack Hagan. After AJ Dupre flied out to left for the second out of the inning, Jeremy Ruiz walked to load the bases.
Ben Douglas then delivered a two-RBI single to left to make it 2-0. Ruiz was out trying to advance to third to end the inning.
In the top of the second, Eric Moritz and Christian Simmons had back-to-back singles to open matters. That was followed by a walk to Koll that loaded the bases. RSU starter Jesse Baird then walked Kyle Sargent to force in a run, to make it 3-0, and end his day on the mound.
Jordan Keith came on for the Hillcats and got Marsh to line out to second on a 3-2 pitch, for the first out. Hagan then continued his hot hitting ways and punched a single to left that drove home both Simmons and Koll, making it 5-0 in favor of McM.
RSU reliever Colton Weeks came on to retire the next two batters in the second and restore order for the hosts.
McMurry added some insurance in the fifth, thanks to a two-out triple by Ruiz. With Douglas at the plate, a wild pitch allowed Ruiz to trot home to make it the 6-0 final score.
In game two, the Hillcats piled up an 8-0 advantage after seven innings before the War Hawks got off the deck and posted three runs in the top of the eighth. All three runs proved to be unearned as RSU committed a pair of errors in that half of the inning.
And the War Hawks were far from done.
In the ninth, McM would continue its late comeback bid. RBI singles by Marsh, Hagan and Dupre made the score 8-6 with just one out. Ruiz followed with a sacrifice fly for the second out and cut the deficit to 8-7. But the potential tying run - in the person of pinch-runner Patrick Adams - was stranded at first base when the final out was recorded.
Game two starter Joel DePorte went 6 1/3 innings and was charged with eight runs (all earned) and 11 RSU hits. DePorte had good control, striking out seven and walking none, as his personal record fell to 2-3 on the year. Jacob Foitek permitted just one hit in 1 2/3 innings of scoreless relief for McM.
Sargent (2-5), Marsh (3-5) and Hagan (2-5) collected seven of the team's 12 hits in the night cap. No. 9 batter Koll also had a multi-hit game (2-4). The War Hawks had two extra-base hits - doubles by Hagan and Koll - in matching RSU's 12 hits.
Information for this story provided by McMurry Athletics.