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Baseball seasons blasts off in Houston

Millersville baseball takes in the sights of Minute Maid Park in Houston, Texas. Photo courtesy of MU Baseball Twitter.

Brian Markley
Associate Sports Editor

The Marauders kicked off the 2020 baseball season over the past weekend at the Houston Winter Invitational, which was hosted in Minute Maid Park, home of the Houston Astros. 

Millersville would play three games over the weekend, starting with a matchup against Arkansas State Wonder Boys. The Marauders had senior lefty Drew Miller on the mound for their opening game, and he would allow two runs in the first inning. 

However, the Marauder bats would get those two runs back and then some. Junior catcher Luke Trainer singled up the middle to drive in senior Eric Callahan, getting Millersville on the board. Senior Jimmy Cain drew a walk and then scored on a ball hit to right field by sophomore Jimmy Losh, tying the game at two. 

The tie would then be broken by senior outfielder Manning Brookens, who would hit a three-run home run over the right field fence, giving the Marauders and Miller a 5-2 lead going into the second inning.

Miller locked in after a shaky first inning and would hold the Wonder Boys at bay, tossing three scoreless innings. Gavilan Fogarty-Harnish would come in for Miller and throw another three scoreless innings before handing the ball over to junior pitcher Andrew Mayhew, who would hold the Wonder Boys in the eighth. 

The Marauders would add another run through freshman Bren Taylor who roped a double to the left-center gap. Taylor would advance to third on a groundout and would then eventually score on a passed ball. A seventh run would be tallied in the eighth inning, once again from Taylor. He stole second and then would score off of a single from Callahan.

Redshirt junior Paul Wilson would come in to pitch the ninth inning and only needed seven pitches to secure the first win of the season for the Marauders by a score of 7-2.

“Having a veteran presence on the field like Drew Miller that’s been down in a game is so important. Having him on the mound, we know we’re going to get a better outing than what he showed in the first inning. Then a guy like Manning, a senior, he’s been there and done that. He put a big swing on the ball and that moment was huge for the momentum of the game,” coach Jon Shehan said.

The second game of Millersville’s Houston trip had the Marauders facing off against No. 4 Central Missouri Mules, the host of the Houston Invitational. Millersville would feature junior pitcher Jeff Taylor, who made his debut for the Marauders after transferring from Penn State.

There was not much to be positive about for Millersville, but Taylor had a strong debut outing, only allowing two runs over the four innings that he pitched, recording five strikeouts and retiring eight Mules batters in a row. 

Mules’ junior pitcher Jordan Fowler threw five scoreless frames, striking out eight Marauders and only allowing one hit, which came off the bat of Cain. The Marauders’ second hit of the game would come from junior Nick Mancuso, who pinch hit in the seventh inning. 

Millersville committed seven errors in the game and did not look anything like the team that had just played the day before. It is the most errors the Marauders have committed since 2014. 

“Baseball’s a funny game. We’re going to play fifty ballgames plus this year so it’s one of those things where we have a lot to work on. Was I disappointed in today’s game? Absolutely. We are a much better club than that, especially defensively. I think one of our strong points is our defense. We played poorly defensively and kicked it around today,” coach Shehan had to say about his team’s performance on Saturday. 

The Marauders would drop game two of the Houston Invitational by a score of 10-0.

Millersville would look to bounce back in their third and final game of the Houston Invitational against No. 21 University of Arkansas-Monticello, who the Marauders faced for the first time. 

The Marauders got on the board quickly thanks to a three-run home run off the bat of senior outfielder Cole Friese in the top of the first inning. Millersville would tack on an addition run through a Brookens groundout that would score Trainer, giving the Marauders an early 4-0 lead. 

Millersville’s offense added to their lead in the second inning, adding on three more runs. Trainer tripled, driving in Losh and Friese, who reached on an error and a hit by pitch. The Marauders increased their lead to 7-0.

This gave sophomore pitcher Alex Mykut plenty of run support, and he tossed three scoreless frames. Millersville’s bullpen would yield three runs to Arkansas-Monticello, but any hope of a comeback faded when the Marauders tacked on another run in the eighth inning through a sacrifice fly ball hit by Friese to score Callahan.

“Situational hitting. We executed with the infield in, got a bunt down, hit with two strikes. We had four times tonight where we situationally hit and that was the story of the game offensively. We situationally hit, they didn’t. They left a bunch of runners on base, and we capitalized,” coach Shehan had to say about his team’s bounce-back offensive performance.

It was a successful start to the season for Millersville, who went 2-1 over the weekend. It was a unique experience for the Marauders to be part of the Houston Invitational. 

“Thanks to Tom Duff, Jeff Sollars and a number of alumni, some heavy-hitters who made it possible for these guys to get down here. Thanks to Miles Gallagher in the administration. For a lot of these guys it is the closest they will get to playing the majors. It’s a childhood dream to play in a park like this. Hopefully they can look back and tell their kids they played in Minute Maid Park. It’s a pretty cool thing to step in the same batting cage as players who won a World Series. We appreciate everyone who helped make it happen,” coach Shehan said about the team’s experience in Houston.

Millersville’s next game is scheduled for Friday, February 7 at Barton. They make their home debut February 26th at Cooper Park against Felician.