The UW-Parkside Rangers (10-19) played a double header Friday afternoon against the University of Missouri-St. Louis Tritons (6-23) of the Great Lakes Valley Conference. The Rangers played at a very windy, hitter-friendly Oberbruner Field, and those in attendance certainly got their chance to see offense. The two teams put up fifty-one runs over the course of the two games, which was greatly contributed to a strong breeze to the left-center alley way.
The first game didn’t end successfully for the Rangers. Junior left-handed starter Alex Zarek was tagged for twelve hits and ten runs over six innings of work. Of the ten runs allowed, six of them were charged to Zarek. Four Parkside errors in the first contest served as a catalyst to Zarek’s struggles. Whether it be the way the wind affected the ball, or just how hard Missouri-St. Louis was hitting Zarek, the defense kept innings going.
“The whole philosophy of everything we go on is based off of consistency,” head baseball coach Joel Weaver said, after the first game of the double header. “You can have moments where you have a good pitch or two good pitches, but it’s completely irrelevant when you can’t string that along from one pitch to another but from one at bat to another.”
The bright spot from game one Friday afternoon came at the bottom of the second inning. John Hasser hit an opposite field bomb over the left field wall, which tied things up early. Shortly afterwards, the Rangers pushed across another run when sophomore second basemen John Bishop slapped it into right-center, scoring catcher Kirk Haviland. However, this inning could have been all the more. There were two base running mistakes that cut down two in the inning, and helped Missouri-St. Louis manage a way out of an early Parkside rally.
The first game ended with a score of 12-2 in favor of the visiting Tritons. Game two started shortly afterwards, and would provide a whole lot more fireworks. The two teams combined to put up an offensive explosion, thirty-seven runs scored, thirty-four hits, and seven home runs.
It was a bad start out the gate for the Rangers, as junior left-hander Jack Olson had two outs in the first, but the visiting Tritons managed to push across four runs with two out in the first inning.
“When you don’t make your pitches you obviously give the opportunity for the other team to take advantage of them,” said Coach Weaver, “It’s easy to hit when you have good pitches to hit.”
As would be the case with the second contest, however, the Rangers answered the bell quickly. The Rangers picked up three runs in the first, as Taylor Nehls tripled with the bases loaded when two Triton outfielders collided trying to track his liner to the right-center gap.
The Rangers followed up their first inning with only one of three scoreless frames in the game, as they set down Missouri-St. Louis at the top of the second. The Rangers answered their clean top of the second with a four-run second inning. After a walk by catcher Brad Leirmann, and an advance off of an error for Ben Korman, the Rangers hit for two consecutive foul outs. The clutch hit came from Dave Watson to keep the inning alive, as he hit an RBI single up the middle. This set the table for designated hitter Tyler Geiseking, who smacked a three run shot into the jet stream that was left-center Friday afternoon.
As the game got into the later innings, the game became more and more evident that the team who hit last had the best chance to win. That left it on the Rangers to do just that, but the Tritons took a huge leap for the lead. In the top of the fifth inning, down 8-13, the visiting Tritons picked up a six-run inning to take the lead. The Rangers answered immediately when short stop Mike Pena hit a liner over the left field wall to tie things up at 14 all, and, shortly after, the Rangers took the lead on a John Hasser RBI single. The next inning saw the Tritons pick up three runs to again take the lead, and then they went on to do something they hadn’t done all game, force the Rangers to go scoreless in an inning.
In the final inning, the score was 17-15 Missouri-St. Louis. The Rangers received just what they needed from reliever Josh Hudnut: a clean inning. In his 1.1 IP, Hudnut only allowed one base runner and picked up one strikeout. The Rangers started the final inning with a strikeout, but the rally started with designated hitter Tyler Geiseking drawing a walk. After a pass ball, another walk, and then a wild pitch, the Rangers had the two runs needed to tie the game up in scoring position with only one out. Taylor Nehls followed up Missouri-St. Louis’ blunders in the seventh by advancing on an error by their third basemen. The bases were loaded for sophomore right fielder Michael Bjerke, who singled down the right field line scoring two. Bjerke, who went three for four in the game, hit a home run, and drove in a team high five for the Rangers.
With the Tritons reeling, catcher Brad Leirmann closed out the scoring extravaganza with a bang. Leirmann hit a walk-off three run homer to left-center, and the Rangers won the shoot out 20-17.
The Rangers will continue to play Missouri-St. Louis on Saturday afternoon, and will then play Cardinal Stritch University Apr. 7 at 2 pm. That will be their final game before a lengthy road trip that will keep them away from Oberbruner Field until Apr. 17, when Kentucky Wesleyan comes in for more GLVC action.