Daniel Renken permitted a one-out walk in the first inning to Juan Martinez, who promptly stole second and advanced to third when Dustin Garneau's throw sailed into center field. But as he has done often recently, Renken cranked it up a notch with runners on base and stranded the runner at third with strikeouts of Seth Furmanek and Michael Notaro.
Christian Colon got the Titans rolling in the bottom of the first inning off ORU ace Jerry Sullivan with a high chopper to third base for an infield single. Josh Fellhauer continued his red hot hitting, stroking a double to right field that scored Colon with the game's first run. Jared Clark then made it 2-0 with a run-producing double to left field before Nick Ramirez added an exclamation mark with a line drive home run to right-centerfield, his sixth of the season, staking Renken to a four run advantage.
The Titans defense got sloppy in the second inning: they made their second and third errors of the game and essentially forced Renken to get five outs in the inning. With one out, Robert Barbosa reached on a throwing error by Gary Brown following a routine groundball and advanced to third base on a solid line drive single to right field by Johnny Roberts. Robert Barbosa then hit a slow bouncer to third base - seemingly too slow for an around-the-horn double play, so Brown threw home and would have easily nabbed Barbosa at the plate had his throw been accurate. Unfortunately, the throw was low and bounced away from Garneau, making the score 4-1 with the tying run coming to the plate with just one out. Again, Renken bore down and struck out the next two batters.
The Golden Eagles mounted another rally in the third inning as Renken hit the first batter (Martinez) and walked the second (Furmanek). After a fly ball to left field advanced Martinez to third base, Oral Roberts coach Rob Walton called for a safety squeeze play. P.J. Sequira got the ball down, but it went straight to Renken, who threw home to easily retire the runner at the plate. Renken worked out of the inning with a groundball to Colon.
The Titans had an opportunity to break the game open in the bottom of the third inning when Fellhauer reached on a one-out HBP and advanced to third on a base hit to right field by Clark. Nick Ramirez was given a second chance when the catcher dropped his foul pop-up, but he struck out as Clark stole second base. Khris Davis left both runners in scoring position on an infield pop-out.
After Renken struck out the side in the top of the fourth, the Titans scored a pair of two out runs when Christian Colon tripled to right field, scoring Jeff Newman (HBP) and Gary Brown (infield single). Watching Brown wheel around the bases is an awesome sight to behold.
Now enjoying a 6-1 advantage, Renken pitched another 1-2-3 inning in the top of the fifth before faltering an inning later. In the sixth, he walked the bases loaded (around a strikeout) and was lifted in favor of versatile freshman Noe Ramirez. Kyle Price greeted Noe with a sacrifice fly to make it 6-2, before a groundball to Joe Scott ended the inning.
Ramirez pitched an easy seventh inning beofre the Titans added another tally on a double by Christian Colon, followed by a sharp single to right field by Fellhauer. Coach Bergy held Colon initially but waved him in when the outfielder misplayed the ball for an error (no RBI for Felly). Two outs later, Khris Davis delivered a sharp double which went out of play, forcing Felly to return to third base by ground rules - he scored easily otherwise. Both runners were stranded in scoring position when Newman grounded back to Sullivan on the mound.
Noe continued his impressive pitching, striking out the side in the eighth inning, while giving up an infield single to Barbosa - just the second of the game for the Golden Eagles.
Christian Colon came to the plate in the bottom of the eighth with two outs and Scott (single and passed ball) on second base needing a home run to give him a 'cycle.' He did not deliver a blast, but he did deliver the Titans final tally of the game with an RBI single to right field.
Ryan Ackland mopped up in the ninth and was a bit shaky. A walk, two singles and an HBP gave ORU a run and loaded the bases, but Sequira flied out to Khris Davis in right field to end the game.
So what did we learn last night?
We learned that the Titans are very tough against teams called "Golden Eagles" (3-0 vs. Southern Miss and now 1-0 against Oral Roberts.)
Once again, the Titans faced a pitcher with gaudy statistics entering the game and jumped out on top quickly, resulting in 6+ runs and double-digit hits - generally a formula for success. ORU pitchers appear to throw over to first base with runners aboard much more than most teams: I was surprised Sullivan was still in the relatively one-sided game in the eighth inning after so many pitches and throws to first base.
I really like the way the hitters are going with the pitches and hitting balls hard to the opposite field. Righthanded-hitting Jared Clark, Christian Colon and Joe Scott each had hits to right field (two apiece for Scott and Colon). Davis has had a lot of opposite field hits during the hot streak, as have Nick Ramirez and Gary Brown.
With his three hits, Joe Scott lifted his season average to .273: I hear that steak sizzling!
Another good question might be: "What did Coach Walton learn?" He was the coach of the undefeated collegiate Team USA last summer. The three Titans players he coached (Colon, Fellhauer and Clark) went a combined 8-13 with three doubles and a triple. If there is any indication just how these guys are playing, there you have it: eight hits against a very good pitcher and an excellent coach that knows your strengths and weaknesses inside out and backwards. Great job, guys!
Renken had another strong outing, giving up just one hit and one earned run in 5 1/3 innings with nine strikeouts. He did walk five batters, his second consecutive game where wildness was a factor. However, just as he did against Oklahoma State, Renken was at his best with runners aboard.
Noe Ramirez faced nine batters and gave up just one dinky infield single, striking out four. He is quickly becoming in invaluable part of this pitching staff: he goes deep into his starts and he comes back quickly as a "lockdown" reliever. When he enters the game in relief lately, he has reminded me of a lockdown cornerback in the NFL.
Finally, not only is Clark crushing the ball and cranking out great blogs every week, his stolen base last night made him a perfect 6-6 on the year in that category. Watching the speed of Newman, Brown and Colon circling the bases on CC's triple was pretty, but perhaps not as much as J-Rod pilfering a base.