Winter Haven, FLA – The University of Findlay baseball team opened their season with a double header vs. Gannon University on Sunday, March 1 in Winter Haven, Florida. The Oilers split the games to set their initial record at 1-1 on the season.
"Never-say-die" was the attitude for the Oilers on the day as they seemed to answer every time Gannon struck for a run. Jon Shollenberger said after the game, "I don't think we're a team that's going to give up, quit, or lay down", and they certainly proved that today, especially in Game 2.
In the first game of the season the Oilers lost by a 1-0 final in an extra-inning game that featured stellar outings from each of the starting pitchers.
For Findlay, Jon Walker, took the tough luck loss, toed the hill and pitched seven solid innings until a walk in the eighth forced his exit. The senior allowed just one run on four hits. He walked five and struck out four. That leadoff walk would come around to score on a bases loaded walk from Alex Williams.
"It's tough when you come up short in a battle like that but I love it. If you don't get the win, there's nothing you can do about it but keep your head up and bring your stuff for Thursday (Walker's next start)", said Walker.
Chase Goulette, who said he may benefit by, "getting better pitches because they're afraid of Adams (who hit behind Goulette)", led the offense as he smacked a pair of base hits including a triple.
As a team, the Oilers scored no runs but out-hit the Knights seven to four. Findlay simply could not muster the big hit it needed to score.
The Oilers offense did its job in game two, getting enough big hits to back up a good outing from starter Mason Mayberry. Findlay's 4-3 victory was solidified when Williams came in the top of the seventh inning and earned his first save of the year.
Gannon got on the board in the top of the first when a leadoff walk came around to score putting them ahead 1-0. A strike out ended the inning.
Findlay did not stay down long and came back to score in the bottom half of the second inning. Troy Merriman doubled to left center and eventually scored on a ground out by Kevin Schrock, tying the game at 1-1.
A single run was scored by Gannon in the third but again, Findlay answered, this time on back to back doubles from Austin Adams and Merriman, who ended with three hits in the game.
Gannon scored one run in the fourth, but Findlay struck again for a pair of runs in the bottom of the fifth. The inning began with a single from Goulette, who advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt from Miguel Valdez. Roman Kuster doubled, scoring Goulette and tying the game at 2-2, but the Oilers weren't done there as Merriman came through with a big two-out hit, scoring Kustar and putting Findlay ahead for good, 4-3.
Closing out the seventh inning was Williams, a pre-season All-American, who came in and faced the same three hitters that got to him in the first game. About the situation, Williams said, "You've got to throw the bad stuff out (referring to Game 1) and you've got to be ready, always. When you get in a situation like that, you crave it. You want to show those three guys what you're all about". That mindset proved to work as he won the battle striking out two of the last three hitters, ending the contest.
Merriman led the offense going a perfect 3-3 with a pair of doubles, two RBI, and one run scored. The freshman, playing in his first collegiate games, had four hits on the day. About his first collegiate baseball experience, Merriman said, "It's special. I've been dreaming about it since I was a little kid so to play with this group of guys was a lot of fun. I'm just going to try and keep doing what I'm doing to help the team win."
Mason Mayberry earned the win on the mound as he pitched 5.1 innings allowing three runs on six hits. He struck out three and walked four.
Also pitching in the game was A.J. Cecil who entered in the sixth inning and got the Oilers out of one out, two-runners-on jam. Cecil did his job and forced a pair of groundouts to end the threat.
Getting the first win of the year is always special but Merriman hit the nail on the head when he said, "You can't get to high. It's a long season and these wins are nice, but we have a long way to go."
The Oilers are back in action as they take on Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (GLIAC) South pre-season favorite, Ashland University. The game, played in Auburndale, is scheduled to begin at 11:15 am. Live Stats and Live Video will be provided.