The Truman State University baseball team began its 2020 season over the weekend in Alva, Oklahoma.
The team started its three day trip with a matchup against Northwestern Oklahoma State University. In the team’s first true road game of the season, the Bulldog bats got hot early. The Bulldogs jumped out to a 6-0 lead over the Rangers in the third inning, but shortly after the Rangers responded with a four-run fifth inning to bring the game within two runs.
Needing to regain control of the game, the Bulldogs answered with their biggest inning of the day. Catcher Jake Schneider got the action started in the seventh inning with a single up the middle, and was moved to third by a double down the line by infielder Landon Hamm in the very next at bat. Following the double, the Rangers pitching staff helped the ’Dogs with a walk and two wild pitches that scored both Schneider and Hamm, giving Truman a 9-4 lead. After a sacrifice fly by Reid Wilson that gave the Bulldogs a 10-4 lead, first baseman Holden Missey stepped to the plate and capped off the inning with a bomb over the left center wall to push Truman’s lead to seven runs. Although the Rangers would go on to score another three runs, the Bulldogs’ lead was never challenged and the team captured its first win of the season 12-7.
Head coach Dan Davis said he believes that his team’s aggression was the key to its early success.
“Honestly they just came out and swung the bats,” Davis said. “I think we’re going to be pretty aggressive. When we see our pitch we’re going to hit it. That’s our offensive philosophy. It doesn’t matter what count it is. It could be early in the count, it could be late in the count. We also did a good job being disciplined. When guys didn’t throw strikes we did a good job of getting ourselves into some pretty good hitting counts.”
The second day of the trip was not as explosive for the Bulldogs. After posting 12 runs just the day before, Truman was unable to find the same success at the plate against Washburn University. After allowing the Ichabods to jump out to a 9-0 lead by the fourth inning, the Bulldogs finally answered with a triple by outfielder Brendan Kelly that scored two runs. This proved to be the offensive highlight for the ’Dogs who went on to lose the game by a score of 13-3.
On the final day of the road trip the Bulldogs found themselves on the field with a familiar conference opponent: the Hawks of Rockhurst University. Last season the Bulldogs were 1-2 against the Hawks, including a heartbreaking 5-4 loss. In this season’s first meeting the Bulldogs and Hawks traded blows early in the game. In the top of the first inning catcher Wilson hit a hard double scoring Kelly, and giving Truman an early 1-0 lead. The lead was short-lived as Rockhurst answered back in the bottom of the inning with an RBI single that tied up the game.
After the first inning, the Bulldogs continued to keep the pressure on the Hawks. With runners in scoring position Rockhurst made two crucial errors that allowed the ’Dogs to take a 3-1 lead into the bottom of the second. Keeping runners on base proved to be the tipping point for the Bulldogs as their next two runs came from an RBI single in the sixth inning that scored Missey and a fielder’s choice in the seventh that scored Kelly. Truman entered the seventh inning with a 5-2 lead and relief pitcher Alex Leary on the mound. After the Hawks put up one run in the seventh the Bulldogs defense held off a late ninth inning push by Rockhurst with a game sealing double play to win their second game of the season 5-4.
“Rockhurst is way better than advertised,” Davis said. “Our pitching staff did a great job of holding them down. When we needed to make pitches we had a couple of really good double plays in there that ended threats, the big one being the one that ended the game.”
This season’s team has had the best start since 2015 when the Bulldogs won the Midwest regional and advanced to the NCAA Div. II Baseball Championships. The Bulldogs will look to continue their hot start Saturday, Feb. 15, at Rogers State University.