The defending MIAA champions faced off against their co-champion counterparts in a battle that left Northwest baseball disappointed.
Central Oklahoma (10-5, 3-3 MIAA) and the Bearcats (6-10, 2-3 MIAA) took to the field this weekend for the first time since sharing the conference championship, and in that, the Bronchos showcased their talents.
When Northwest traveled to Edmond, Oklahoma, to go against the co-champions of the MIAA last year, they hoped for a chance to claimed the title of best in the conference. Central Oklahoma had no intention of allowing the Bearcats to claim that title as it dominated the three-game series.
While the pitching staff may have found momentum, the defense faltered and the offensive strengths fell through. After the first day being a doubleheader, Central Oklahoma took game one (10-0) and two (3-1) with ease. The third game only followed the trend, forcing a rough series ender (7-0) and a disappointing ride home.
“There is such parity in the MIAA, if you are a little off then it's going to be a long weekend for you,” coach Darin Loe said. “We were just a little off that day, and unfortunately, we had a doubleheader that day and got beat twice, and then the third day we couldn’t get anything going either.”
For Northwest, it has been tough to initiate a connection between the three elements of the game for an entire series. Though the season is still relatively young, the Bearcats understand these crucial errors and want to continue to practice to infuse these elements together.
“We are working hard to put all three aspects of the game together each day at practice,” senior catcher Jay Hrdlicka said. “Once the pitching, hitting and defense really start to click and everybody takes care of their role, we will be a difficult team to beat.”
Even with an unfavorable start to the season, progress has been evident as the pitching staff is starting to find its identity.
During the series, the Northwest pitching staff allowed just 13 earned runs on the 20 runs scored. Along with that, the starting pitching staff allowed a little over three runs each game with an average of at least five innings pitched.
Those numbers aren’t exactly Cy Young levels but show improvement to a staff that has allowed around seven runs per game. Regardless, the pitching staff is starting to give the Bearcats the most important factor, and that’s the chance to go out and win the game.
“That was the bright spot of our weekend; we identified a couple more pitchers that competed very well,” Loe said. “I think all of our starters gave us a chance to win, and I think that's the biggest thing and No. 1 thing we expect out of our pitchers.”
Due to the recent weather conditions, the Bearcats delayed their home opener. Northwest was scheduled to host its first game against Rockhurst March 5, but for the second straight time, there will be no games held at Bearcat Field.
“Game cancellations are tough because obviously, we want to compete and play in as many games as we can,” Hrdlicka said. “The weather isn't in our control, so we just have to stay focused and look forward to our games ahead.”
They are scheduled to face off against Southwest Baptist in a Bearcat battle March 8-9.
To take that next step, Northwest needs to continue to work on its game and matchup with MIAA competition such as Southwest Baptist. This weekend, Northwest hopes to regain its momentum as it can’t afford to lose many series if it hopes to retain the title.
“Every weekend in the MIAA is a dog fight, so, as a team, we just have to make sure to bring our best energy and focus every game,” Hrdlicka said. “I believe if we do that we will have a very successful season.”