BY JOEY MERKEL
The weather was cloudy and the wind was blowing but a sense of summer was in the air as the University of Mary Washington men’s baseball team kicked off its season with a doubleheader against Messiah College.
In what was a pitchers’ duel for most of the first game, the Eagles, with some clutch hitting, were able to get out to a moderate 2-0 lead in the fifth inning before opening up the lead to 7-0 with a five run sixth.
Freshman third baseman Shane Sixsmith led the charge offensively as he singled, doubled and drove in three of UMW’s seven runs in the first game.
Freshman designated hitter David Noack contributed two hits while junior catcher Nick Espinosa perfectly executed a squeeze play to score junior Alex Howell from third.
Junior first baseman Will Wright earned the year’s first Capital Athletic Conference baseball player of the week award after going 4-for-7 between both games with three doubles, a triple and three RBIs and two stolen bases.
The story of the game was a strong pitching performance by senior pitcher Andrew Cox. The Falcons had no answer to Cox’s pitching, as they were only able to muster three hits over his six-shutout innings of work.
Though Cox was not overly impressed with his performance, his earned-run average of 0.00 after his first start of the year would say otherwise.
“I am not completely satisfied with my performance as a whole on Saturday,” Cox said. “During the first two innings I put myself in jams and with good defense behind me, [I] was able to get out of there without giving up any runs.”
Although he was able to strike out seven, his five walks were the issue of Saturday’s game. Cox credits much of the shutout however to the defense of the guys behind him.
“Once the adrenaline dissipated a little bit, I was able to pitch my game and ended up having a pretty good day. I give a lot of credit to the defense behind me because without them making the solid plays all day we wouldn’t have come out of there with a shutout.”
The team has only four seniors, including their two best pitchers, Cox and Wes Hayden, who pitched the second game of the doubleheader. The Eagles know that they are young but have all the potential and talent they need to succeed this year.
“I feel that the games on opening day went really well and showed the potential that our team has,” Cox said. ”We are relatively young again this year and as the year progresses I believe this team has nowhere but to improve.”
Though there are areas where there is room for improvement, the team played well enough together to take down Messiah in both games.
“By no means did we play perfect baseball, but we played fundamentally sound baseball and did what we had to do to start the season off with two wins,” Cox said.
In the second game of the doubleheader the bats came alive again for the Eagles and for the first time the Falcons were able to get on the board.
Hayden was able to pitch efficiently enough to work all seven innings of the second game. For those that do not know, in NCAA baseball games, when there are doubleheaders, both games are sometimes shortened to only seven innings instead of the usual nine.
Hayden gave up just six hits, three runs and walked five while the Eagle bats were able to give him 10 runs of support.
Big plays, solid defense and clutch is the way this team is going to be the way this team wins the most games says Cox.
“Of course there were the opening day jitters for many of the guys, but people stepped up and hit the ball well and made big plays in key situations. I believe the hitters did a great job moving base runners around and taking advantage of Messiah College’s mistakes.”