HOT SPRINGS, Ar. — Southern Arkansas University’s baseball team started the 2023 season ranked No. 2 in NCAA Division II. The Muleriders didn’t live up to those lofty expectations for five innings Saturday in the Mike Dugan Invitational at Majestic Park.
Righthander Zach Wiese silenced SAU’s bats to one hit in those five innings as Northwest Missouri State built a 4-0 cushion. Sophomore Jeremy Adorno — 15-0 his freshman year leading the Muleriders to the Division II World Series — got off to a slow start. The hard-throwing and crafty Adorno yielded a second inning home run to catcher Ryan Williams and walked in a second run in the third.
Wiese left the game in the bottom of the sixth after giving up a leadoff single to shortstop Riley Orr. That was also it for the Bearcats. SAU scored five runs in the sixth to post a 5-4 win with strong relief pitching from Santo Sosa and Isaiah Haynes.
Pettigrew pleased with Muleriders’ win
“First game, that’s baseball and not football or basketball where the most talented team is going to control the game all the way,” said veteran SAU coach Justin Pettigrew, a graduate of Lake Hamilton High School. “Adorno struggled with command more than anything. He walked in a run, which is definitely not like him. Soto came in and left the ball over the middle of the plate and they scored two run. He pitched well after that, and Isaiah shut them down in the ninth.”
Pettigrew was asked if his team deserved to be ranked No. 2.
“Ask me again in June,” he said. “Ranking are more of a reflection of the year before. In Division II there’s enough coverage to know what everybody has. I’ve always said it’s more important where you wind up and you line up. Maybe we’re No. 2 right now, and maybe we’re not. It’s all relevant to our opponent. I just know we got out of here with our first win.”
Lyles, Sutton contribute in decisive inning
Former Texas High standout Chris Lyles drove in the decisive run Saturday with a Texas-leaguer to right in the sixth inning. Third baseman Brandon Nicoll plated Texas High alumnus Chris Sutton and Brett McGee, who went to high school in Pittsburg, Texas. Will Richardson’s double down the left field line tied the game at 4-4.
Lyles and Sutton are both juniors, and Pettigrew wishes Texarkana would send 20 more like them to Magnolia, Ar.
“I love those two guys,” Pettigrew said. “They’re not only great baseball players, but ambassadors for our program, and they do a great job in the classroom. Their leadership skills are off the chart.”
Sosa was the winning pitcher, with Nicoll and Orr contributing two hits each. Ryan Koski and Alex Bowers had two hits apiece for the Bearcats. Casey Stalzer suffered the loss.
SAU is scheduled to play Northeastern Oklahoma State Sunday at 4 p.m. Northwest Missouri plays Southeastern Oklahoma in Sunday’s opener at Majestic Park.
EDITOR’S NOTE: There will be a ceremony at the entrance to Majestic Park on Monday at 10:30 a.m. A statue of Babe Ruth — only the third one of the Bambino in the world — will be unveiled. Babe Ruth’s grandson is expected to be in attendance.