COLLEGE BASEBALL: UTPB returns from two-week break, splits doubleheader against Texas A&M-International

Typically when teams begin a baseball season, there aren’t many weeks off.

The UTPB baseball team experienced a two-week break between its opener against University of the Southwest and its next series with Texas A&M-International.

UTPB head coach Brian Reinke said the brief hiatus produced positives and negatives as the Falcons rolled to a 10-1 victory over Texas A&M-International in the opener of the doubleheader, but the Dustdevils capitalized on a late miscues for a 8-7 win in the second game Friday at Roden Field.

“I thought it worked well for us, because we worked out a couple of kinks that we had, but the problem with that is the guys that don’t have much experience, they don’t get it over the two weeks of practice either,” Reinke said. “We knew coming into this weekend that guys with minimal experience were going to have to do things right for us to win.

“It’s the fourth game of the year. You can’t read much into it. You can’t read too much into the third game when we won 10-1. You have to continue to play and continue do things the right way. We didn’t play good enough defense to win. That’s the bottom line.”

In the opener, UTPB sophomore left-handed pitcher Matt Szymczak allowed one run on three hits over five innings.

Szymczak gave up a run in the top of the first inning, but the Falcons (3-1) answered with three in the bottom half of the frame. UTPB continued to back up its starter with 12 hits, which included multiple hits from Doug Clapperton, Tyler Houlihan and Mitchell Hazlett.

Clapperton finished with two hits, one home run, three RBIs and two runs scored, while Hazlett went 3 for 3 and had two RBIs. Jordan Zazulak and William Bierlein each supplied one hit and two RBIs.

“In the first game, I wasn’t seeing the ball as good as I should have. I was maybe thinking a little bit too much,” said Zazulak, who finished 3 of 7 with a solo home run, a triple and four RBIs in the doubleheader. “In the second game, I calmed down and just hit. You can’t think and hit at the same time.”

Jorge Gonzalez was tagged with the loss after he allowed eight runs in 3.1 innings. Gavin Tristan scored the team’s lone run after he reached on a leadoff double.

Texas A&M-International head coach Ryan Flynn said the team struggled to score during the previous five games. The Dustdevils totaled 41 hits and 19 walks for 15 runs in that span.

However, during the night cap, Texas A&M-International turned its 10 hits into eight runs — a season high — and that included the game-winning two-run home run from Alexander Cabezas. UTPB reliever Marcus Colegrove left a breaking ball up and Cabezas connected for the two-run shot over the left field wall.

“We’ve started off slow as far as getting the big knock,” Flynn said. “We’ve left a lot of runners on base this season. We’ve just been needing some of those big hits. We obviously got those in Game 2 and that could be something that might open the doors now.”

The Falcons scored four runs in the seventh inning to take a 7-4 lead, but that advantage diminished in the eighth after a throwing error from third base.

UTPB right-handed reliever Nate Dominguez was on the verge of escaping his fourth straight scoreless inning, but on a routine groundball Houlihan bounced the throw to first base which helped the Dustdevils score a pair of runs and shrink their deficit to 7-6. Texas A&M-International would take the lead for good after Cabezas’ two-run home run in the ninth.

UTPB had an opportunity to score in the bottom half of the ninth inning, but Cabezas threw a strike from center field to throw out Clapperton at third base to complete a game-ending double play.

“We played pretty well, but we just gave two or three runs away in the last two innings,” Zazulak said. “We kind of gave it away, but I feel like we played pretty well. We hit well and pitching kept us in.”

Colegrove was charged with the loss, while Eleazar Rojas picked up the win. Texas A&M-International’s Jeremy Valadez went 2 for 5 with three RBIs in the second game. Chris Ortega finished with two hits and two RBIs for the Falcons.

UTPB faces the Dustdevils in the series finale at 1 p.m. today. The Falcons will likely have its No. 1 starter — Chris Cano — on the mound. The senior right-handed pitcher didn’t allow a hit and struck out nine through five innings in first start against University of the Southwest.

“We need to bounce back,” Reinke said. “We’ll probably have our No. 1 going tomorrow. If he’s ready to go, then he’ll go. That’s a benefit and a plus for us, but we still need come out and play.”

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