Arkansas-Pine Bluff faced two big challenges Friday afternoon – the wind and North Dakota State senior pitcher John Straka.
And the Golden Lions weren’t able to overcome either one as Straka needed just 96 pitches in nine innings to shutout UAPB 4-0 in the teams’ season opener at the Torii Hunter Baseball Complex.
“We just kept hitting the ball in the air,” UAPB (0-1) head coach Carlos James said. “On a day like today with the wind blowing in like it is, you got to hit the ball on the ground and line drives.
“Anything up in the air, the wind is going to hold it up and it is just a routine out.”
Straka finished with six strikeouts and no walks and allowed just two hits. It was his sixth career shutout, which passes Mike Peschel’s five from 1999-2003 for the school record.
Knowing Straka threw the fastball on the first pitch 90 percent of the time, UAPB tried to be aggressive at the play.
“That was our game plan. We wanted to hunt the fastball early,” James said. “We made contact with him.
“We just didn’t hit line drives and we popped everything up. We hit a lot of fly balls today and we didn’t do a good job of playing to our strengths.”
North Dakota State (1-0) grabbed an early 3-0 lead in the second inning thanks to three consecutive walks and a two-RBI double by Jon Hechtner.
With one out, NDSU’s Trevor Jaunich, Michael Leach, Kirk Kenneally loaded the bases with walks. Hechtner’s double plated Jaunich and Leach.
Kennealy scored on a RBI single by Tim Colwell.
UAPB would escape the inning when they picked off Colwell between first and second and threw Hechtner out at the plate.
UAPB starter Stanten Jones went 4 1/3 innings, allowing three hits, three runs (all earned) with four walks and five strikeouts.
“In the second inning, he had two walks that really came back to haunt him,” James said. “That team is picked first in the Summit League. You can’t give them two extra outs and expect them not to capitalize on it.
“With the exception of that inning, he did a good job.”
North Dakota State finished last year with a 40-20 overall record and an apperance in the NCAA Regional Tournament.
NDSU scored again in the fifth inning on a bases-loaded walk to take the 4-0 lead.
UAPB reliever Humberto Zavala pitched 4 1/3 innings and allowed two hits, one run (earned) with three walks and four strikeouts. Freshman Mike Ludwig closed out the game and struck out the only batter he faced.
UAPB’s biggest chance to score came in the ninth inning.
Freshman Dylan Calhoun hit a fly ball to left field that went off the glove of NDSU outfielder Kyle Kleinendorts. The dropped ball allowed Calhoun to advance to second.
Calhoun would advance to third on a fly ball out but would be stranded at third.
Juniors Isias Alcantar and Dwayne Hysmith were the only two to tally hits for the Golden Lions. Alcantar also reached on a hit by pitch.
“It is the first game,” James said. “I saw some things that we need to work on and I saw some good things too.”
James said he was proud of the way the team didn’t panic.
“They didn’t give up and they stayed in the game,” James said. “We also learned that you can’t give good teams many chances either.”
The second game of the three game series is scheduled to begin today at 1 p.m.