Tiger Baseball Opens Season With A 14-1 Thumping of Air Force Then Falls To Arkansas 10-9
Freshman Bill Moss wasted little time making an impact on his new baseball team as he blasted a pair of home runs in his collegiate debut to lift Memphis to a 14-1 victory over Air Force in the Tigers' season-opener at the Service Academy Classic in Millington Sunday. The game which was originally scheduled for Friday finally took place on Sunday afternoon after poor weather conditions forced postponement on Friday and Saturday.
In game two, the Tigers (1-1) battled back-and-forth with the Razorbacks before eventually falling 10-9. Junior college transfer Kevin House put Memphis ahead 9-7 with a grand slam in a six-run sixth inning, but that would be all the Tigers would score as Arkansas plated the final three runs of the game to improve to 5-0 on the season. House combined for seven RBI in the two games and went 4-for-9 at the plate with two doubles and his first two Division I home runs.
"I am really pleased with the way we played on our first day," Memphis head coach Dave Anderson said. "We competed very well. I'm happy with the way we swung the bats and we took what we learned from the offseason and put it to use out on the field today."
Against the Falcons, Moss along with Kevin House and Kurt Welch each had a team-high three RBI as the Tigers scored runs in the first five innings of the contest which was shortened to seven innings to allow Air Force to catch an early evening flight. Kevin House and Welch also added three hits apiece as the Tigers pounded out 15 as a team.
The Tigers took a 1-0 lead in the top of the first inning after Moss stepped up to the plate for his first collegiate at bat and promptly sent the fourth pitch he saw deep over the rightfield wall for a home run. Memphis added another run in the top of the second after first baseman Kyle Scott and Welch led off the inning with back-to-back singles. Scott crossed the plate on a fielder's choice RBI groundout by sophomore Jordan Hart.
House led off the third with his second double of the game and scored on a sharp double down the leftfield line by sophomore Brent Dlugach. Junior Josh Payne hit the third-consecutive double of the inning for the Tigers driving in Dlugach from second. Welch drove in Payne with his second single of the game.
The Tigers exploded for five more runs in the top of the fourth. House delivered the big hit sending a three-run homer over the right field wall scoring Chad House and Moss. Welch drove in the other two runs with his third hit of a game, a linedrive double in the left field gap.
Freshman Stephen Gostkowski replaced starter Bill Edwards on the mound for the Tigers in the top of the fourth and struckout the side in his first inning as a collegian. Edwards (1-0) was credited with the win after allowing one hit in three innings of work while striking out three.
Memphis kept the offense rolling in the fifth adding four more runs in the frame to build a 14-0 lead. Moss blasted his second home run of the game over the leftfield wall driving in Chad House, who led off the inning with a walk. Dlugach reached on an error and scored on a double by Scott. The Tigers' third baseman scored the fourth run of the frame on a wild pitch by Falcons' pitcher Scott Mears.
Nick Liegl put the Falcons on the board with a solo home run off Gostkowski in the bottom of the fifth. Air Force pitcher Ken Hodgson then cooled the Tiger bats in the top of the sixth holding them off the scoreboard for the first time in the game.
Gostkowski struck out eight batters in four innings in his collegiate debut. The Tigers handed Air Force freshman Paul Vignola (3-1) his first loss of the season. The Falcons used six pitchers in the contest. Senior Jason Pruitt was the only other Falcon besides Hodgson to not allow a run in the contest.
Game two started much different than game one did for for the Tigers as they fell behind early. Arkansas jumped out to a 4-0 lead behind a two-run double by Andrew Wishy and a two-run homer by Ryan Fox. Memphis got a run back in the second after Scott doubled and scored on an error by Fox who dropped a fly ball hit by Welch to centerfield.
Arkansas built its lead back to four with a single run in the fourth, but Memphis answered right back with a pair of runs in the bottom of the fourth. Those two runs were provided by Payne who belted a home run over the leftfield wall scoring Kevin House from third.
Sophomore Erik Filsinger replaced Memphis starter Jarrett Grube after four innings. Grube, a junior college transfer, allowed five runs, four of which were earned and six hits in his debut for the Tigers.
The Tigers threatened again in the bottom of the fifth when they loaded the bases with one out after singles by Hart and Moss and Kevin House reached on a fielder's choice after Scott Bridges dropped a force out at second. However, Arkansas starter Charley Boyce got Dlugach to strikeout swinging and Payne to hit a comebacker for the final out in the inning. Wishy and Nick Pitts hit back-to-back home runs for Arkansas in the top of the sixth to give the Razorbacks a 7-3 lead.
Memphis had another golden opportunity in the sixth inning when the Tigers once again loaded the bases. This time the Tigers took advantage in a big way scoring six runs to take their first lead of the game. Scott doubled to lead off the inning and scored when Chad House was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded. Moss was the third straight batter to be hit by a pitch scoring Welch to cut the lead to 7-5. Kevin House then cleared the bases when he sent a grand slam over the leftfield wall to give Memphis a 9-7 lead.
Sophomore Michael Novarese relieved Filsinger to start the seventh inning for the Tigers and got the first two Razorbacks out before walking the next two. Junior college Brandon Rowan then relieved Novarese and gave upa bloop single to Wishy that scored Bridges from second to cut the Memphis lead to one at 9-8. That would be the only run to cross the plate for the Razorbacks as Rowan forced Pitts to into a groundout.
Scott doubled for the third time in the game to lead off the bottom of the seventh. He was gunned out at third by Fox after trying to tag when Welch flew out to centerfield. Junior college transfer Corey Kines pitched a scoreless eighth inning in his Tiger debut to keep the UM lead at one.
Payne came in from rightfield to relieve Kines in the ninth with heavy rains falling for the first time all day. After walking the leadoff batter, Payne struckout Haas Pratt looking for the first out, then dropped an easy out at first after Wishy hit a soft grounder to Scott leaving runners on first and second. Pitts then hit a line drive in the right-center field gap that scored a pair of runs to give Arkansas a 10-9 lead. Payne walked the next batter and was relieved by junior Zach Cook who struckout thenext two batters to stop the Razorback rally.
The Tigers got the leadoff runner on when Dlugach reached on an error, but the Tigers could not advance him as Jay Sawatski retired the next three batters in a row to close out the game. Sawitski came in following Houses' grand slam and did not allow a run on two hits in the final 3.2 innings to pick up his first win of the season. Payne (0-1) got the loss after allowing two runs in a third of inning of work.
Scott had four doubles in the two games and finished 5-for-9 at the plate with four runs scored. Hart was the only other Tiger with multiple hits in the Arkansas game. The Tigers play next at Arkansas-Little Rock Wednesday at 3 p.m.