By Nate Tenopir, Editor-in-Chief
When a pickle between UNO’s Alex Schultz and the left side of the North Dakota infield resulted in a benches clearing scuffle Friday afternoon, it may have created a time bomb.
Through six games UNO (1-6) had yet to get one in the win column. Omaha had already been shutout twice, and the Mavs were on their way to a third game without getting a single run across the plate.
After North Dakota’s third baseman Ryan Reese tackled Schultz at third base it gave UNO a reason to lose control of their emotions. But a day later the Mavs regained their composure and exploded in a big way.
The offense came through with 17 hits, more runs than they had combined for all season and picked up the first win of 2013 in a 13-2 domination of North Dakota.
“I think we were just a lot more focused,” Head Coach Bob Herold said about his team’s performance Saturday. “Up until that game we haven’t really taken good care of our at bats. You can’t swing at the first pitch, make an out, next guy swing at the first pitch and make an out. All of a sudden you only got two pitches on the pitcher and we’ve got two outs. We haven’t done a very good job and we’ve kind of been working through that.”
Prior to Saturday afternoon Omaha had scored just eight times in six games. The Mavs were averaging a respectable seven hits per game, but only nine of those hits were extra base hits.
Saturday in the series finale, seven of the Mavs 17 hits were extra base hits including three doubles by Brett Miller, two by Alex Mortensen, one by Clayton Taylor and a triple by Cole Gruber.
But none of it may have been possible if UNO hadn’t gained some perspective by losing focus the afternoon before. In the second game of Friday’s doubleheader, Schultz attempted to advance from second to third on an infield groundball in the bottom of the second inning.
Schultz was caught on the basepaths, but he caught a break when the ball got away from UND during the pickle. UND’s Reese remained in the baseline and Schultz ran through him to get to third.
Reese got up off the infield dirt, ran to third then picked up Schultz and slammed him to the grass.
“He stayed in the baseline and didn’t try to get out of the way,” Herold said about how the situation escalated. “There was no malicious contact from our guy even though he got thrown out for it. The kid came up from behind, tackled him, threw him on the ground face down then I grabbed that guy and all of a sudden the whole place went goofy.”
The scuffle that ensued took more than 20 minutes to sort out. Once everyone had settled down Schultz and Reese were both tossed from the game.
But Reese came up to hit the very next inning causing another delay that lasted close to 10 minutes. Reese was removed from the field and the game resumed with the Mavs down 1-0.
But despite the small deficit and the semi-brawl that had stirred emotions the inning before, UNO failed to respond. North Dakota pushed another run across in the eighth and UNO picked up just three hits on their way to getting shutout for the third time in six games.
“I thought we might respond immediately,” Herold said. “It wasn’t like it was a blowout at the time. That would have been the tying run, but we went right up and still swung at the first pitch.”
When the Mavs finally broke through in Saturday’s win it was in a very big way. UNO scored three in the second, five in the fifth, one in the seventh and four in the eighth.
It was the first time all season the Mavs had a lead in any game. It was also the first time UNO had put up a run total as high as 13 since a 13-1 win March 16, 2012 against Bucknell in Lakeland, Fla.
“Of course we talk to them before every game about having quality at bats and not swinging at the first pitch if you’re not ahead in the game,” Herold said. “They did a real good job of it Saturday.”
Unfortunately one result of Friday’s incident was losing Schultz for four games. NCAA rules dictate any players tossed out of the game for fighting have to sit out the next four.
Though getting tackled then restrained by your coach wouldn’t quality as fighting in most instances, Schultz will be out of the lineup until at least Saturday at Iowa. Once he’s active Herold believes he’ll see a team that is continuing to grow and get past the mistakes it has made early in the season.
“We started our season two weeks behind everybody,” Herold said. “That’s part of the frustration. You make a lot of your mistakes the first seven to 10 games. This was big, that was huge for us Saturday. We needed a Saturday. We needed a Saturday just to kind of get guys to relax then they started to see how things happen.”