The North Alabama baseball team didn't get off the to the start coach Mike Keehn anticipated Friday in its season opener against Ohio University.
The Lions struck out 17 times and committed four errors in dropping a 5-1 decision to the Bobcats at Mike D. Lane Field on a cold Friday afternoon.
Through the Lions outhit the Bobcats 7-6, the lack of contact at the plate made for a long day. Keehn was disappointed in that cutting down on strikeouts was a point of emphasis in the offseason.
“The two things that we talked about from last year that we had to minimize are walks and strikeouts at the plate,” Keehn said. “We didn’t walk the guys and pitchers did their part today, but offensively we did stuff that we’ve been working on and talking about but we went right back into a pattern where we couldn’t move the baseball.”
Pitchers Hunter Davidson (0-1) and reliever Garret Gillum struck out eight and walked four.
Neither team was sharp defensively as both side committed four errors. UNA's proved more costly, however.
In the bottom of the first, the Lions appeared to look to capitalize on early mistakes after right fielder Kevin Brenning picked up one of his two hits on a single and got to third base after an infield error and a passed ball. Tate Mathis was hit-by-a-pitch and then stole second.
But Ohio starting pitcher Eamon Horwedel wiggled out of the jam as he did most of the 4 1/3 innings he lasted.
Unlike UNA, Ohio capitalized on its opportunities in the second and third innings. The Bobcats scored three of their five runs on one hit and all four of the Lions errors.
“I think both teams would agree that it wasn’t the best played game,” Ohio head coach Rob Smith said. “I told our guys after the game that at stretches we didn’t play good defense which is something we pride ourselves on. The thing that we did do a good job of is picking each other up. To our credit, we stayed with the game and found our way out of tough situations.”
“Any time you have a game with eight errors, that’s not real good college baseball,” Keehn said.
North Alabama’s lone run came in the fifth on Brenning's RBI single that scored Reid Singewald, who had singled and reached second on an error.
But after scoring, the Lions stranded three runners. North Alabama left runners in scoring positions in four of the nine innings which included two bases loaded situations.
Ohio used four pitchers —Horwedel, Nick Byrnes (1-0), Eddie Kutt, and Brett Manis.
Keehn didn’t really have an answer for UNA's struggles.
“I don’t know why it felt we were so nervous at home,” Keehn said. “We looked like we were scared to death. I honestly don’t know. It’s just one of those things you can’t predict. We had rain all week and some sunshine and it was cool tonight, but that’s no excuse for how we played.”
Keehn did see some positives though.
“I guess the positive thing is we got a few of their guys (pitchers) throwing out there,” he said. “If there is a positive, that is definitely it. We are going to talk about being more prepared. We are going to do some things better and see where we are.”
The series continues today with a doubleheader starting at 1 p.m.