The baseball team’s offense kicked in to take the series against Northern Kentucky University last weekend after losing the first game following a six-run ninth inning comeback.
Friday, the Bobcats used a five-run third inning to carry a lead to the top of the ninth when Northern Kentucky scored six runs to take the lead and eventually the game 6-5. Northern Kentucky scored the winning run off a Bobcat throwing error by senior third baseman Nick Smelser.
Junior pitcher Kyle Finnegan started game one and gave up three hits and no runs on six innings of work. Freshman Lucas Humpal and junior Hunter Lemke relieved Finnegan, pitching two innings total, giving up no runs on one hit and one walk.
Freshman reliever Jack Finnegan, Kyle’s brother, started the ninth and relinquished the shutout with two runs off two hits. He never recorded an out in the ninth. Sophomore Austen Williams was credited with the loss, making him 0-2 on the season. He gave up four runs, three earned, on three hits.
The Bobcats responded the next day, scoring eight runs in the first inning of Saturday’s contest. Texas State won by way of a run-rule, 13-0, recording 12 hits. Senior designated hitter Andrew Stumph led the way, batting 1-2 with three RBI. Senior left fielder Kevin Sah was given his first start and went 3-5 with two runs scored.
“I think myself and the team included have a little more confidence at the plate,” Stumph said. “Our coaches talk about having an opposite field approach and I think everyone is starting to buy into it. You can see in the past three games that the hit totals have been in double digits every game.”
The hitting drew the attention early on Saturday but sophomore starting pitcher Taylor Black was a key contributor for the Bobcats as well. Black pitched a one-hitter in seven innings of work, striking out 10 Northern Kentucky batters.
“I was proud of the way they came back (Saturday and Sunday) after the gut wrenching game that we lost on Friday night,” Coachsaid. “Those are the ones that are hard to take. They’re a reminder of how cruel baseball can be if you let it.”
Black’s performance was technically a complete game shutout, and was enough to make Black the WAC Pitcher of the Week. The Bobcats had four batters in Saturday’s game with at least two hits and seven players who reached base at least twice.
In Sunday’s rubber match, Texas State used several big innings to overcome an early deficit. Northern Kentucky got a 3-0 lead in the first inning, but would not score again until the sixth. Despite having three errors in the game, Texas State managed to win 11-7.
The Bobcats saw their first home run of the season, coming from the bat of sophomore short stop Garrett Mattlage. Mattlage went 4 of 4 on Sunday including his homerun shot to left-center field. He had five RBI and a run scored as well.
“When I hit it, I kind of knew it was out,” Mattlage said. “I really needed that as far as confidence and feeling good at the plate with my right-handed swing. It’s always nice to get the first (home run) out of the way. The ball just keeps getting bigger and bigger.”
Stumph kept his clutch hitting going in the series finale, batting 4-5 with three runs scored and an RBI. Junior first baseman Austin O’Neal singled up the middle in the third inning, which resulted in two runs scored for the Bobcats. Junior catcher Tyler Pearson was key in Texas State’s lineup all weekend long. He batted 2-4 on Sunday with three runs scored.
Mickan, Stumph, Mattlage and Pearson led the Bobcats’ offense throughout the weekend. All together they were 21-47 (.446). A once conference worst batting average below .200 is now at .243, seventh out of ten programs in the league.
The batting averages, a key statistic for baseball success, are getting better for the Bobcats with Mattlage leading the way hitting .364, good enough for ninth in the conference. Harrington still admits there are things his team must improve upon offensively, including at-bats with people in scoring position.
“I’m a bigger stat man than you’ll ever dream about. I’m a baseball coach. I live off of stats,” Harrington said. “When you watch batting averages rise, it’s a statistical mark of what they are doing. But it becomes about batting average with men on base. When those are good, that means you have tough guys with runners in scoring position.”