When Northwest baseball traveled to Arkadelphia, Arkansas, Feb. 7-9 for the Henderson State Invitational, it was looking to come back to Maryville with three wins.
The Bearcats found those three wins.
To start the invitational Feb. 7, Northwest squared off against the host school, Henderson State (1-5). The first inning of action for Northwest (5-2) wasn’t ideal as the Reddies posted three runs on the scoreboard before the Bearcats could get a chance to bat. That, Northwest coach Darin Loe said, was due to some pitching adjustments that the Bearcats are working on.
“We have a great number of new pitchers,” Loe said. “Biggest thing is that I just need to get to know those guys, … just call pitches to their strengths.”
After the first inning, Northwest would outscore Henderson 10-3, leading to an eventual 10-6 win for the Bearcats. Junior pitcher Jonathan McIntyre would get the win in the first game of the invitational.
In Game 2 Feb. 8, the Bearcats faced Ouachita Baptist (2-4). Similar to the first game of the invitational, Northwest found itself trailing by one run after the first inning. That deficit, much like the one against Henderson, wouldn’t be welcomed for long via two runs scored from Northwest during the top of the second inning. Those two runs came from the bat of junior outfielder Donovan Warren, who recorded a two RBI double.
The Bearcats lost the lead late in the game, but nearly mirroring the performance of the first game, Northwest came back to win 9-7. The win was secured with the final strike in the bottom of the ninth, but it was almost sure after four runs were scored in the top of that same inning.
The offensive performance for Northwest, Loe said, is something that can lead the Bearcats to success throughout the course of the long season.
“We’re swinging really well,” Loe said. “Had a couple of let-ups Week 1, but that offensive group is really coming into their own. … I feel like we can score some runs.”
In the final game of the Henderson State Invitation Feb. 9, Northwest took on Oklahoma Baptist (4-2).
The Bearcats jumped out on top early as they took a 3-1 lead. Shortly after, Northwest added five runs in the third inning after an RBI double by sophomore outfielder Jordan Peck.
Northwest would give itself a seven-run lead going into the fourth inning, one that would hold to give the Bearcats a clean sweep of the trip with a 9-2 win over the Bison.
The Bearcats record, as it stands, Loe said, is very promising.
“I feel pretty good about our current record right now,” Loe said. “When you look at what we have accomplished as of recently, we are swinging the bats very well, which is always a good sign early.”
The Bearcats’ success and ability to fight deficits is, in part, due to the breakdown method that Loe has implemented into the team. It isn’t important, he said, to have a bunch of things go right at once. It is important, he added, to focus on each individual plate appearance.
“Having a quality at-bat is very important to us,” Loe said. “Just taking advantage and making something out of every at-bat is key.”
Loe preached how excited he is about the journey that lies ahead for the 2020 season. It’s a team, he said, that has the pieces to take itself deep into the postseason and have success throughout the regular season.
“We are just focusing day by day,” Loe said. “If we have practice we focus on that practice. If it's a game day we focus on the game ahead of us. … We have the pieces to do good things, but that’s only if we focus on our daily goals.”