By Jared Meyer, Contributor
The UNO baseball team competed in the RussMatt Central Florida Invitational over Spring Break, winning four games and dropping three while also playing in the longest game in Division I this season. The Mavs opened with an 8-3 loss to Army, rattled off four in a row defeating Chicago State 8-4, LIU-Brooklyn 3-2, Bucknell 13-1 and Bradley 4-3, then dropped their final two games 5-2 to Jacksonville State and 3-1 to Northwestern.
After surrendering 19 runs in a loss to BYU in UNO’s first home appearance of the season, the pitching staff bounced back to allow just 23 runs in 72 innings. In the seven games, Maverick pitchers had a better than two to one strikeout versus walk ratio.
The staff even got help from a normal position player. Senior Colby McCord, the normal starting catcher, came in for relief in the 3-2 19 inning win over LIU-Brooklyn.
McCord threw the last seven innings of the game, striking out a career-high 11 batters while walking just one. It was the first time McCord had taken the mound since 2010.
But the trip got off to an ominous start with the loss to Army. UNO took a 3-0 lead in the bottom of the first inning, but the Mavs only managed three hits the rest of the way.
Army starter Alex Robinett settled down after a rough first inning and struck out a career-high 11 UNO hitters. Army made it 3-1 in the second then got within 3-2 in the sixth.
In the seventh the Black Knights took a 5-3 lead with three runs on three hits then followed it up with three more in the eighth. The Army bullpen did the rest of the work, striking out three and not allowing a Maverick base runner the rest of the way.
Despite dropping an early lead in the invite’s first game, UNO showed no signs of a hangover and won their next four in a row. First it was an 8-4 win over Chicago State in which the Mavs took another early lead but this time held it throughout the game.
Two runs on two hits in the second, then three consecutive singles, a Cougar error and a wild pitch in the third had UNO ahead 6-0 just three innings in. Junior Matt Tew (1-2) earned his first win of the year, going six innings with just two hits, two walks and eight strikeouts.
The following night it took 19 innings to get the 3-2 victory over LIU-Brooklyn. The two teams played the first nine innings to a 1-1 tie, then it looked as if the Blackbirds might have won the game in the top of the 12th.
LIU scored a run on a single to go up 2-1, but the Mavs matched them in the bottom of the frame. Senior Mark Waldron’s fielder’s choice scored senior Brady Hohl to knot the score 2-2 and force more innings.
Both teams had runners over the next seven innings but neither could capitalize. Mav sophomore Caleb Palensky drew a leadoff walk in the bottom of the 19th then moved to second on a passed ball.
Freshman Alex Mortensen got Palensky to third with a sacrifice bunt. With two outs and a 2-1 count, senior Andrew Reck singled to the left side past the diving LIU third basemen to score Palensky and end the marathon matchup.
The momentum from the dramatic 19-inning win carried over to the next day as UNO put up 13 runs against Bucknell. The Mavs tallied 15 hits, four extra-base hits and drew nine walks.
UNO got six scoreless innings from senior pitcher Curtis Smith (1-1). Smith struck out four while walking just one and giving up only five hits in his first win of the season.
Sophomore Anthony Falcone ended the game pitching three innings, striking out two and giving up Bucknell’s only run in the ninth.
UNO got their fourth win in a row against Bradley, going up 3-0 in the top of the third and hanging on for a 4-3 victory. Senior Brandon Winkelmann went 1-for-3 with three RBI and Palnesky hit a solo homerun in the fifth.
Freshmen Cole Volkers (1-0) earned his first win of the season coming in on relief, allowing one run on two hits while striking out four over four and a third.
The streak came to an end the next day in a 5-2 loss to Jacksonville State. Hohl was the only Mav to have a multi-hit game, finishing 2-for-4.
Reck got the start for Mavs and threw six strong innings allowing just one run on seven hits and five strikeouts. Sophomore Jeff McNicols took the loss while facing only one batter and giving up the run that gave Jacksonville State the lead in the eighth.
The Mavs led 2-1 in the bottom of the fifth behind a sacrifice fly from Waldron to score Max Ayoub. The Gamecocks scored two runs on two hits and took advantage of a UNO error to go ahead 3-2 in the eighth.
Jacksonville State kept the Mavs from getting any runners into scoring position the rest of the way then increased their lead to 5-2 on three hits in the top of the ninth.
The story was much the same the following night when UNO could only manage one run in a 3-1 loss to Northwestern. Junior Matt Tew (1-2) started for the Mavs and allowed two runs on seven hits, striking out five over six innings of work.
McCord finished 2-for-3 with the only run scored. The Wildcats took a 3-0 lead on the strength of runs in the second, fifth and seventh innings.
McCord led off the eighth with a single then moved to second when Palensky was hit by a pitch. Scotty Donner scored McCord on an RBI single to right center.
The offense couldn’t manage to scratch out any more runs and UNO dropped their final game of the invite. The Mavs now return home for another game in Omaha, Tuesday night against Creighton at TD Ameritrade Park.