The Wildcats celebrate their narrow 11-10 win over UT Arlington on Tuesday night. (Photo by David Mitchell)
Last week, baseball played its first series against a major conference opponent in Michigan State and its first road game of the year against the University of the Incarnate Word.
Over the weekend, the Wildcats managed to sweep MSU three games to nil. However, the Wildcats dropped their road opener to the Incarnate Word Cardinals 12-5.
Earlier that week, the team planned to play Michigan State on Friday, a doubleheader on Saturday and the final game on Sunday. However, the bad weather turned into a doubleheader on Sunday and a midday match on Monday with a day off before playing Incarnate Word on Wednesday.
In Game 1 on Sunday, the Wildcats found themselves with a 2-0 lead thanks to a 382-foot homer from Colton Eager to right field. Eager wasn’t done there, winning a 432-foot three-run homer in the bottom of the eighth to make it an 8-1 game.
The Wildcats would win Game 1 10-1 while using three pitchers who threw 13 strikeouts. Most notable was a three-inning no-hitter effort by Connor Carlton, a junior pitcher from Abilene.
Game 2 started off similarly, with the Wildcats getting six runs in the first inning and six combined runs in the third and fourth innings. This game was highlighted by an outstanding pitch from Breck Eichelberger, a junior pitcher from Ivins, Utah.
Eichelberger, a transfer from Salt Lake City Community College, had been roughed up in his first start of the season against North Dakota State. On Saturday, Eichelberger pitched six one-run innings en route to a 12-4 Wildcats victory in that game.
In Game 3 of the series, the Wildcats found themselves down 2-1 heading into Game 7, where an offensive rally pushed nine points for a 10-2 comeback win and series sweep of the Spartans.
In a series with great baseball on both offense and defense, head coach Rick McCarty was happy to see his team playing at a high level at the start of the season.
“The throw was way better,” McCarty said. “More consistent from the first weekend, so we liked what we saw there in that regard just from a management of the strike zone and very few steps. Offensively, we certainly got the job done there and gave our guys a cushion.
With just one day between games, the Wildcats traveled to San Antonio for their first road game to face future Western Athletic Conference opponent Incarnate Word.
The Wildcats opened the scoring early with a run in the first, but UIW responded late in the first with four runs and eight runs in the bottom of the fifth. Although the Wildcats managed to drive in three more points, the deficit was too big to close, dropping the game 12-5.
In that game, pitching proved the Wildcats’ downfall using nine pitchers – however, North Richland Hills senior outfielder Colton Eager went 4-for-4 at home plate, including two doubles.
Despite the scoreline, McCarty is still aware of the growing pains a team will have at the start of the season.
“This round got away from us like I said, we’re still trying to figure out some things,” McCarty said. “I probably should have done some things differently myself. Seeing Eager and Mitchell Dickson, not that they were slow to get going, but it was really good to see those guys produce and have good games.
The Wildcats continue their season with a three-game series against Marist on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. With notable matchups coming up against Baylor on Wednesday and their WAC season opener against UT-Rio Grande Valley from March 11-13.