McM pitching staff comes up big in season opener

ABILENE, Texas - The McMurry University baseball team (1-0) began the NCAA Division II era with a victory, as it defeated Oklahoma Panhandle State University (0-1), 2-1, in a pitchers duel on Friday afternoon at Walt Driggers Field.

Chase Moreland made the most of his first outing in a War Hawk uniform as the junior went six solid innings giving up just one earned run. Cody Howard and Greg Koll drove in the two runs for McM, while AJ Dupre, Dylan De Leon, Koll, and Ricky Garcia> collected a hit apiece.

OPSU got on the board first as Moreland started off the game a little shaky. After striking out the first batter, Moreland hit the next two batters. After a passed ball allowed the runners to advance to second and third, a wild pitch brought in the go-ahead run to give the Aggies the 1-0 lead. Moreland would get out of the jam, however, as he struck out the next two batters to strand a runner on third.

In the bottom of the second inning, McM would notch the equalizer, as Dupre ripped a first-pitch double to left-center field with just one out. Two batters later, Koll roped a single through the left side, which scored Dupre from third to tie the contest at 1-1.

Both pitching staffs held their opponents in check as both teams were held to just four-combined hits over the next five innings of work.

In the bottom of the eighth inning, the War Hawks were able to strike again. On a 1-2 count, Garcia hit a double off the left field wall. After a walk to Adam Neubaur and a wild pitch advanced Garcia to third, Howard drove in the game-winning RBI on a sacrifice fly to center field that scored Garcia, to give McMurry the 2-1 advantage.

In the top of the ninth inning, closer Charlie Hejny needed just seven pitches to close the door on the Aggies. After back-to-back groundouts, Hejny struck out the final batter to earn his first save of the season.

Despite getting the no-decision, head coach John Byington said you couldn't have asked for a better pitching performance from Moreland.

"Chase pitched an outstanding game out there today," said coach Byington. "Six innings on opening day is a very solid performance for a starting pitcher."

Moreland finished the day having given up just four hits over six innings of work, while striking out 10 Aggies over the course of the contest.

"It felt really good out there," remarked Moreland of his performance. "You have to give credit to the coaches who had us really prepared for the game."

After Moreland left the game in the sixth, the combination of Caleb Gonzales and Hejny held the Aggies in check, allowing just two hits over the final three innings. Gonzales picked up the win, pitching the seventh and eighth, allowing just two singles while striking out one.

"The bullpen did a great job," remarked Moreland. "Caleb and Charlie both pitched really well out there. It makes it a lot easier to pitch, knowing that there are guys who can come in and finish the job."

The War Hawks and Aggies will go at it again on Saturday as they will play a double-header to finish the three-game set. The first pitch of game one is scheduled for one p.m. at Walt Driggers Field.

Information provided by McMurry athletics department.

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