MIAMI — Entering the final six baseball games of the regular season, the Northeastern Oklahoma A&M College Golden Norsemen are looking for momentum to carry them into the Region II Tournament.
The Golden Norse swept a non-conference double-header, Tuesday, April 24, over the junior varsity of Drury University in Springfield, Missouri.
NEO gained a 12-10 victory in seven innings of the first game before earning a 9-8 win in seven innings of the nightcap.
“This season has been frustrating for all our us,” Golden Norse head coach Roger Ward said. “Every time it felt like we had taken a step forward, we wound up taking two steps back.
“Tuesday was a tough day,” Ward said. “Even though we won both games, we didn’t play as well as we should have.”
With the sweep, the Norsemen have a 24-20 record. They are 12-12 in the Oklahoma Collegiate Athletic Conference.
“Our expectations coming out of the fall were much higher,” Ward said. “We felt like we had a good ballclub and we thought that we could compete with anybody.
“Then we got Rogge and Demmel (sophomore pitchers Caleb Rogge and Jared Demmel) that transferred at semester break.” Ward said. “They were two real good arms that were going to give us a chance to win.”
Even though the Norsemen had the deepest pitching staff during Ward’s 19-year career, the team has been on a roller-coaster ride. “Things just didn’t pan out like we thought they would,” Ward said.
“We didn’t play as well, we didn’t hit as well and we didn’t pitch as well. “So, it’s disappointing but it’s not over. The Eastern series is important, but the Seminole series is probably more important.
“Seminole is a very good ball team and we play them a week before we go into the regional,” Ward said. “Once the playoffs start, everybody is 0-0 and you’ve got four days to take the next step by playing well.
“I still believe one things about these guys and that is that we have enough talent and ability to play the game,” Ward said. “If we decide to go to Woodward and play to our ability over four days, we have a good chance to beat any of these teams.”
NEO 12, Drury JV 10
Wasting no time getting on the scoreboard, the Golden Norse scored five runs in the top of the first inning.
Four walks, two hit batters and singles by Colton Marion, Troy Gagan and Erasmo Mavarez highlighted the outburst.
Drury rallied for three runs in the bottom of the third inning off NEO starter Rogge. Corey Lummis relieved Rogge and got the final out.
A walk by Bryson Lierle and a single by Matthew Patton started the fourth inning for NEO. After Carter Nelson had a sacrifice bunt sending Lierle to third and Patton to second, Dylan Taylor was hit by a pitch to fill the bases.
Calem Nutting hit a sacrifice fly to center as Lierle scored for a 6-3 Norse cushion.
NEO scored five runs in the top of the fifth inning to increase its lead to 11-3. An RBI double by Taylor along with an RBI single by Marion highlighted the inning.
The Panthers erupted for seven runs — six earned — in the bottom of the fifth inning off Lummis.
Dekodah Jones (4-1) got the last out in the fifth inning before allowing only two hits in the final two hitless-scoreless innings.
The final NEO run came in the top of the sixth inning after Gagan singled. Gagan stole second before Marion walked. A sacrifice bunt by Lierle moved both runners to second and third. Patton followed with an RBI single, scoring Gagan.
With a double and two singles, Gagan led the 11-hit Norse offense. Patton and Nelson added two singles each.
NEO 9, Drury JV 8
Right fielder Marquis Luster had a triple, double and single to lead the Golden Norsemen to the one-run victory in the nightcap.
The Norsemen built a 1-0 run in the top of the first inning on a leadoff single by Gagan. After Marion walked, both runners advanced a base on a double steal. Patton grounded into a fielder’s choice as Gagan scored.
Two consecutive walks by Demmel to start the bottom of the first inning led to a rally by Drury. A one-out single scored both runners as the Panthers grabbed a 2-1 lead.
A single by Nutting to start the top of second inning led to a five-run explosion by the Golden Norsemen.
Luster followed with a triple as Nutting scored. James Avery singled to left, scoring Luster. Mavarez walked before Gagan singled scoring Avery. Mavarez scored on a passed ball with Gagan advancing to third.
Marion hit a sacrifice fly to left with Gagan scoring for a 6-2 NEO margin.
Drury rallied with three runs in the bottom of the second inning to trail 6-5. During the comeback, Cale Crutchfield replaced Demmel on the mound for NEO.
With one out in the top of the sixth inning, Marion singled. After Marion stole second, Matthew Gaskins doubled, scoring Marion. Tyler Silva reached on an error by the right fielder as Gaskins scored for an 8-5 Golden Norse lead.
Bailey Cantu replaced Crutchfield on the bump to start the bottom of the sixth for the Norsemen.
Two walks, two singles and a double allowed the Panthers to rally for an 8-8 tie.
Luster starts the top of the seventh inning by reaching on a perfect bunt. A sacrifice bunt by Avery moved Luster to second. After Mavarez moved Luster to third with a sacrifice fly to center, Gagan hit a single to left, scoring Luster for an 8-7 Norse advantage.
Cantu hit the first Drury batter to start the bottom of the seventh. Patton replaced Cantu and induced the Drury batters to ground out to
the catcher, pitcher and shortstop to end the game.
Along with Luster’s three hits, Gagan contributed two as the Norse scored eight runs on 10 hits.
The Golden Norsemen host Eastern State, Saturday, April 28, in a double header. NEO travels to Seminole, Thursday, May 3, to face Seminole State before concluding the regular season, Saturday, May 5 with two games in Miami.