No. 1 Tigers fall short vs No. 8 TLU Bulldogs

On Friday, March 22, and Saturday, March 23, the newly ranked No. 1 Trinity Tigers baseball team hosted the No. 8-ranked Texas Lutheran Bulldogs in a three game series of top 10-ranked SCAC teams. On Friday, the Tigers emerged victorious from their first game, only to lose both double-header games on Saturday.

The Trinity Tigers were riding a nine-game winning streak coming into the series with the last four games against fellow SCAC teams, such as the Dallas Crusaders and Our Lady of the Lake Saints. This recent winning streak helped propel the Tigers to the No. 1 spot in the National Division III rankings for collegiate baseball, but it isn’t something that team is too focused on.

“Being ranked No. 1 is an honor, but we know it does not mean anything in the grand scheme of things. Last year, we were No. 1 for a large part of the season and we ended up not reaching the postseason. This year, we are focused on what we can control and doing what we can to not let outside factors affect how we come to the field every day,” said junior pitcher Matthew Thomas.

By winning the first game of the three-game series by a score of 8–3, the Tigers improved their winning streak to 10 games in a row.

“On Friday, I felt we came out and played the best game so far this season. Everyone was focused from beginning to end, and it showed in the result,” said senior third baseman Dalys Binder.

Mason Meredith, junior outfielder, got the Tigers going in the bottom of the first inning by hitting a sacrifice fly to right field that brought in Jake Martin, senior outfielder, from third base. The Tigers really opened things up in the bottom second inning when Binder hit a solo homerun to give the Trinity Tigers a 2–0 advantage. Martin followed that up by driving in two more runs with a run batted in (RBI) single to stretch the lead 4–0. The offense continued in the bottom of the third as Michael Goodrich, junior catcher, hit a solo homerun of his own, giving the Tigers two homeruns in the game at the third inning mark. In the bottom of the fifth inning, senior infielder Logan Morrison drew a bases loaded walk that brought in sophomore infielder Jack Wisniewski from third base, giving the Tigers a 6–0 advantage in the game.

The Texas Lutheran Bulldogs eventually broke the shutout by scoring one run in the top of the sixth. The Tigers immediately countered with another run of their own in the bottom of the sixth, but the Bulldogs answered with two more runs in the top of the seventh, making the score 7–3. Martin shut down any hopes of a comeback and finished his huge game by hitting another solo homerun in the bottom of the eighth inning, giving Trinity three solo homeruns on the night and increasing the lead to the final score of 8–3.

The Tigers came back the following day on Saturday, March 23 and lost both games of a double header. “We came out really hot on Friday’s game and absolutely put them away on both sides of the ball. They just came out with a better mindset on Saturday,” said Ian Hussian, senior pitcher.

The Bulldogs started off the game with an offensive explosion by scoring seven runs in the top of the first inning.

The Tigers answered with three runs of their own in the bottom of the first inning, but the Bulldogs immediately came back with another three runs in the top of the second inning. At that point, the Bulldogs held a 10–3 lead over the Tigers and never looked back. First-year pitcher Arjun Thakar attempted to keep the Tigers in the game by pitching six innings of solid relief, but it wasn’t enough as the Tigers lost 12–4.

The Tigers followed up that performance by losing a highly entertaining back and forth game that eventually ended in the tenth inning. The Bulldogs held a 4–1 lead going into the bottom of the third inning, but the Tigers rallied and scored three runs in the bottom of the third to tie the game at 4–4.

Martin continued his terrific series by hitting a RBI single up the middle, which Meredith and Binder followed with RBIs of their own to even the score. The Bulldogs would tack on a run apiece in the top of the fourth and the top of the eighth, making the score 6–4. The Tigers needed some late game heroics if they were going to stay in this game, and that is exactly what happened. Martin capped off his amazing series by hitting a two-run homerun to left field in the bottom of the ninth inning that tied the game up at 6–6.

“Jake Martin’s homerun in game three of the series was huge for us to tie the game, but TLU came back next inning and attacked right away again,” said Binder.

In the top of the tenth inning, the Bulldogs took advantage of two walks and two errors, allowing them to score three runs. This would end up being the difference; the Tigers could not answer in the bottom of the tenth inning, bringing an end to a thrilling, yet heartbreaking game.

The Trinity Tiger’s record now sits at 17–5 and they are still currently ranked as the No. 1 team in Division III baseball — but they are not going to be complacent with this ranking. “The team has got to work on being aggressive. It’s easier said than done, but everything we do as a team lacks conviction,” said Hussian.

The Tigers hope to bounce back from this disappointing series when they host the University of Chicago on Monday at 7:00 p.m. They will follow up that game with another three game series next weekend against Centenary.

“I think the coming series will be a true test of where we are at, and we all look forward to it,” said Hussian. The first game will be played on Friday, March 29 with another double-header on Saturday, March 30.