ABILENE, Texas - The McMurry baseball team stood toe-to-toe with the number seven team in the nation, St. Mary's University, and split a double header with the Rattlers, falling 4-3 in game one before taking game two by a score of 4-3, thanks to a walk-off base hit by . The Rattlers came into the series ranked seventh in all of NCAA – Division II by the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association.
In game one, St. Mary's jumped out of the gate early, striking for two runs in the top of the first inning off of starter . The second batter of the inning, Derek Moczygemba, tripled to left field with one out and was immediately brought in by Mario Maldonado to make the score 1-0. After advancing to third on a wild pitch and a single, Maldonado then scored on a ground-out to extend the lead to 2-0.
After allowing the two early runs, Smith found a groove, setting down 11-straight Rattler hitters until McMurry could cut into the lead. In the bottom of the fourth, Howard got his first hit of the game, launching a full-count pitch over the left-field wall for his second home run of the season, cutting the score to 2-1.
In the top of the fifth, St. Mary's answered right back playing "small ball" by using two sacrifice hits to expand the advantage to 3-1. The War Hawks would immediately respond in the bottom of the fifth. led off the inning with a double to left center and two batters later was brought in off the bat of to make the score 3-2.
In the top of the seventh inning, St. Mary's would once again find some wiggle room. After Ivan Sigala reached base on an error and stole second base, a single to right field by Scott Slusher gave the Rattlers an insurance run, 4-2.
In the War Hawks last at bats of the game, Garcia once again came through with a clutch hit, knocking a home run to left field to cut the score to 4-3. However, McM could get no closer in the inning and fell, 4-3.
Offensively, Garcia led the way, going 3-for-3 in the game with two extra-base hits, two runs scored and a RBI. De Leon also collected two hits in the contest.
On the mound, Smith collected his third complete game of the season, going seven strong innings while allowing just six hits and three earned. He also struck out six batters while allowing no walks on the day.
In game two, it was the War Hawks who jumped out to the early lead as used solid baserunning to take the first run. After Ruiz reached first base, he quickly moved to third on a single by . Ruiz then came home on a wild pitch to make the score 1-0.
McMurry would then add another run in the bottom of the fourth inning. With two outs in the frame, was hit by a pitch and then moved to second base on a wild pitch. Garcia the collected his fifth hit on the day, singling to right field to score Marsh and make the advantage 2-0.
pitched great through the first five innings of the contest, allowing just one hit and four total baserunners. However, in the sixth inning, St. Mary's struck for three runs to take the 3-2 lead.
The two teams would remain at the same score until the bottom of the ninth inning, when McM took advantage of two Rattlers miscues as Garcia brought home Adam Neubaur to knot the game at 3-3 and send the game into extra innings. This marked just the second time this season that the War Hawks had played extras.
After set the Rattlers down in order in the top of the tenth, the War Hawks received their second walk-off winner of the week. led off the inning with a single to left-center field and was moved to second base on a sacrifice bunt by Hagan. After an intentional walk to De Leon put runners on first and second with one out, Howard singled to left-center, bringing in Marsh for the game-winning run, and a final score of 4-3.
In game two, Koll, Moritz and Garcia all collected two hits, while Howard and Garcia each drove in a run in the game.
On the mound, the bullpen did a stellar job, as the combination of and Hopper allowed just three hits and no runs while striking out three over four innings of work.
Hopper allowed just one hit in the ninth and tenth innings combined to earn his third win of the season.
The War Hawks and Rattlers will play the rubber match of their three-game series tomorrow, March 16, in a nine-inning contest. The game is scheduled for a 1 p.m. start time.
Information for this story provided by McMurry Sports Information.