EUNICE, La. — Opening the regular baseball season against the undefeated Louisiana State University-Eunice Bengals, Northeastern Oklahoma A&M College dropped three nine-inning games.
NEO managed only two runs on six hits against the Bengals (10-0) on Thursday, Feb. 7, during a 12-2 loss in seven innings.
The Golden Norse offense was stymied for only one run on four hits in a 9-1 loss in Friday's second game.
Returning to Bengal Stadium on Saturday, Feb. 10, once again, the Norse were held to two runs on five hits in a 12-2 loss in seven innings.
"This wasn't quite what I wanted to open the season with because we didn't hit good, pitch good or play good defense against a team that has won five Division II National Championships (the last in 2015)," Golden Norse head coach Roger Ward said. "They have been on the field for the last four weeks and it showed.
"When I was setting up our schedule, I wanted to open at home against some teams from the north. "But Iowa Western, Des Moines Area Community College and Western Oklahoma all decided to go another direction, so this is what I was able to get.
"We went down there expecting more out of our sophomores, with the realization that they weren't full-time starters last year," Ward said. "You can't give up 26 walks and 33 runs while striking out 34 times and managing only 15 hits in three games and expect to win against an experienced team."
A five-run third inning and a three-run seventh carried the Bengals to a 12-2 victory in Thursday's first game.
Pitcher Matthew Gaskins collected two of NEO's six hits as the Norsemen scored single runs in the second and fifth innings.
NEO catcher Dylan Taylor added an RBI single along with base hits by Matthew Patton, Jordan Blackmon and Erasmo Mavarez. Troy Gagan collected the other RBI and a fielder's choice.
Despite striking out six in 2.2 innings as the starter, Gaskins suffered the loss by allowing five runs on four hits. Christopher Despars pitched 3.1 innings of relief and gave up three runs on four hits. Patton surrendered three runs on two hits in 0.1 innings of work.
LSU-Eunice 9, NEO 1
NEO's lone run came in the top of the second inning on a walk by Taylor and a RBI double by Marque Luster to create a 2-1 deficit.
Leading 3-1 going into the bottom of the seventh inning, the Bengals erupted for five runs before adding a solo run in the bottom of the eighth of a 9-1 win.
Caleb Nutting produced two singles while Blackmon added a double to account for NEO's four total hits.
Jacob Schultz took the loss for NEO by allowing three runs on two hits in the first four innings. Reliever Tanner Bramlage gave up four runs on five hits in 2.2 innings before Jared Demmel allowed two runs on two hits in 1.1 innings.
LSU-Eunice 12, NEO 2
The Bengals erupted for five runs in the first, two in the second and one in the third in Saturday's matchup.
Solo runs in the fourth and the seventh inning accounted for the scoring by the Golden Norsemen.
Mavarez collected two of the five Norse hits along with an RBI double by Carter Nelson and singles by Gagan and Colton Marion.
Caleb Rogge made his debut for the Norsemen, allowing eight runs on nine hits in three innings of work.
Zach Pinkston held the Bengals to two hits and no runs in two innings of relief.
Reliever Corey Loomis pitched a scoreless sixth inning before Cale Crutchfield allowed four runs on only one hit in the bottom of the seventh inning.
The Golden Norsemen remain on the road Thursday, Feb. 15, for a 1 p.m. non-conference double-header in El Reno against the Redlands Community College Cougars.