By Dave Ruthenberg, Sports Editor
Enid News and Eagle
Northern Oklahoma College Enid got off to a rough start in its Oklahoma Collegiate Athletic Conference openers against Murray State Thursday at David Allen Memorial Ballpark. The fifth-ranked Jets (25-12) fell 9-2 in the first game of the doubleheader, and were run-ruled 15-3 in the nightcap.
“We got outplayed today,” said NOC Enid head coach Raydon Leaton. “We’re disappointed, this isn’t the way we wanted to start (conference play), but we have 18 more games left to go.”
Jets starting pitcher Garrett Kelly was rocked for six runs in the first inning in the opener of the twinbill, as Murray State (24-9) sent 12 batters to the plate.
Jets starter Justin Sheets suffered a similar fate in the nightcap, lasting only 21⁄3 innings.
“It’s the nature of pitching,” said Leaton regarding Kelly’s rough outing. “He didn’t have it today, but even guys making $10 million a year have their off days. He’ll bounce back.”
Kelly retired the first batter he faced, however the next seven batters reached base, spelling the end of Kelly’s day after only 1⁄3 inning.
Kelly was relieved by Jonathan Johnson with the score 4-0 and two runners on base. Both runners scored before Johnson was able to end the inning by retiring Tucker Alexander, who earlier had the only extra-base hit of the inning, an RBI double off the centerfield wall. The Aggies collected six runs on eight hits and two walks in the inning.
The Jets scored their only two runs of the game in the second inning as Aggies’ starter Evan Rice developed some temporary control problems, loading the bases by hitting both Brandon Ruiz and Logan Bradley (who left the game after being hit on the elbow ) and then walking Tyler Wilkins with two out. Logan Glasgow delivered a two-out single that scored both Ruiz and Bradley. J.R. Head’s single re-loaded the bases, but Christian Faulkner went down swinging to end the inning and Murray State up 6-2.
The Aggies extended their lead to 8-2 with two runs in the third inning and added another run in the fifth inning when Alexander collected his third RBI by cranking another double off the centerfield wall to make it 9-2.
Johnson pitched six strong innings in relief of Kelly before giving way to Christian LaFontan in the seventh.
“He (Johnson) held them in check to give us a chance to get back in it,” said Leaton. “We settled down and played them to a 3-2 game after the first inning.”
It was more of the same in the nightcap for the Jets as Sheets did not make it past the third inning after being staked to a 1-0 lead after one inning when Blake Callaway’s RBI single drove home Dusty Harper, who had doubled earlier.
The Aggies scored four runs on four singles, two perfect sacrifice bunts and a hit batter in the fourth inning and then blew the game open with a four-run third inning that began with Aaron Chalk’s towering solo homer to right.
Chalk’s home run was the first of five straight hits that wound up chasing starter Sheets who was replaced by Matt Decker. When the dust settled, Murray State was comfortably ahead 8-1.
The Aggies chased Decker in the fourth, bringing on Jaxson Johnson, but he was unable to stop the bleeding as Murray State scored five runs to up its lead to 13-1.
The Aggies added two runs in the fifth for a 15-1 lead. Faulkner’s 2-RBI double in the bottom of the fifth made it 15-3, but the Jets were unable to generate any further offense and the game was ended by run-rule.
The Aggies pounded out 13 hits, while the Jets had seven.
“You throw belt-high pitches and you are going to get hit,” said Leaton. “We are going to have to correct some things and hopefully get them at their place (Saturday).
“They were more competitive than we were, but we’ve won 25 games. We know how to win.”
The teams will play another doubleheader Saturday at Murray State with Zac Postoak (3-1, 3.50) and Shawn Hunter (4-1, 2.42) scheduled to start for the Jets.