McMurry University bounced back in the rubber game of the Heartland Conference series versus Rogers State University, winning the finale, 5-4, at the Diamond Sports Complex. The War Hawks (8-13, 5-6 HC) took two-of-three versus the Hillcats (12-9, 5-7 HC).
As opposed to the first two games of the series where both teams had big leads – McM won the first game 6-0 and RSU led 8-0 in the second before hanging on for its victory – this match-up was a close bout throughout.
McMurry leadoff man Kyle Sargent got the War Hawks off on the right foot, singling to left to open the game. After being sacrificed to second and taking third on a ground out to second, Sargent marched home on Greg Koll’s RBI single up the middle, 1-0.
The host Hillcats responded with two runs of their own in the bottom of the first. Down 2-1 in the top of the fourth, McM’s Casey Berryman cracked his first home run of the season – a solo shot to left field – to knot the game at 2-2.
McMurry retook the lead in the top of the sixth with an unearned run. Zack Hagan, who had reached after leading off the inning with a single inside third base, eventually scored on an error by the RSU secondbaseman to make it 3-2.
McM head coach John Byington called on reliever Mitch Labbie to take for starter Caleb Gonzales in the bottom of the sixth. But Labbie was greeted rudely by RSU’s first three batters.
Caleb Kohlmeyer slapped a standup triple. The very next man to the plate, Blake Gipson, singled past short to drive home Kohlmeyer and tie the game at 3-3. Ryan Hendricks followed with a single down the left field line, moving Gipson to second base with no one out.
But Labbie was able to settle himself down, striking gout the next two batters – both swinging – before inducing pinch-hitter Johan Ochoa to ground into a 4-3 fielder’s choice to squash the threat and keep the score tied.
The War Hawks gave Labbie some breathing room in the top of the seventh with a pair of runs. With Joel Villareal at first base, after reaching on a fielder’s choice, Sargent cranked a double off of the rightfield fence that advanced Villareal to third, with one out. That brought up Christian Simmons, who promptly lined a single to center field that plated both Villareal and Sargent, making it 5-3 in favor of McMurry.
In the bottom of the eighth, the Hillcats scratched out another run after Hendricks singled off of Villareal’s glove at third and, eventually, scored on Ochoa’s two-out single up the middle, 5-4.
But after struggling early, Labbie closed down RSU the rest of the way. A 1-2-3 ninth inning put the game in McMurry’s win column.
Labbie improved his personal record to 2-3 on the year. Entering the day with 10 strikeouts total, Labbie registered six “Ks” versus the Hillcats alone on Saturday., walking one, and permitting four hits.
Gonzales, in his five innings of work, allowed four hits and struck out three, without issuing a walk.
Sargent went 3-for-5 on the afternoon, giving him his eighth multi-hit game of the season (trailing only Hagan’s nine for the team lead in that category). It was also his third multi-RBI game, as well.
Simmons was the only other War Hawk with multiple hits, going 2-for-4. Simmons had two RBI, as well, for McM.
Hagan’s sixth inning single extended his current hitting streak to a team-leading eight games.
McMurry out-hit the Hillcats in two of the games and matched them in the other, including out-dueling RSU 10-9 in Saturday’s contest. In all, McM batters collected a total of 31 hits in the trio of games, the team’s best accumulation for any series this season, thus far.
McMurry will play a non-conference game at Southeastern Oklahoma State University on Sunday (1 p.m.) in Durant, Okla., before returning to Abilene.
Information for this story provided by McMurry Athletics.