With 6-1 win over Arkansas-Fort Smith, Eagles sweep another Heartland series

OC right-hander Tyler Sturges throws a pitch during Sunday's game against Arkansas-Fort Smith. Sturges allowed one hit in seven innings as the Eagles won 6-1.
OC right-hander Tyler Sturges throws a pitch during Sunday's game against Arkansas-Fort Smith. Sturges allowed one hit in seven innings as the Eagles won 6-1.

OKLAHOMA CITY (March 9, 2014) – Oklahoma Christian’s rise up the ranks of Heartland Conference baseball teams took another step on Sunday afternoon.

Tyler Sturges and Dillon Endecott combined on a two-hitter to lead the Eagles to a 6-1 win over Arkansas-Fort Smith at Putnam City High School’s Pirate Field, completing a three-game sweep over a UAFS squad that entered the series ranked No. 10 in the NCAA Division II South Central Region rankings.

OC (10-5, 7-2 Heartland Conference) has won six straight games, having swept a road series at Texas A&M International a week before sweeping UAFS (8-9, 4-5). The Eagles’ winning streak matches their longest since the university revived the program in 2008. OC also won six straight games from March 15-21, 2009.

In the conference standings, OC trails only Lubbock Christian (Texas), which is 8-1, and St. Mary’s (Texas), which is 5-1.

“It’s really exciting,” OC coach Lonny Cobble said. “We want to play good in conference (games). We’ve got three quality starters for the weekend and we just want to keep this thing going.”

OC jumped on Arkansas-Fort Smith starter Devin Hampton (2-1) in the first inning, sending 10 batters to the plate and scratching out four runs on just two hits – both singles – by taking advantage of three walks, a hit batsman and a key error by UAFS shortstop Mitch Huckabay.

Hampton walked six batters during his five-inning stint. Meanwhile, given that early lead, Sturges (1-1) had a dominant seven-inning outing, giving up only one hit, that a first-inning single by Justin Shealy, and no walks. Sturges retired 11 straight Lions in one stretch.

He ran into trouble in the seventh, hitting the Lions’ first three batters to load the bases, but he recovered to limit UAFS to just one run, striking out Ryan Justus to end the inning. Sturges finished with five strikeouts.

“He threw well,” Cobble said. “He’s really thrown well his last two outings. We just haven’t had good luck late. We decided to stretch him to the seventh. His pitch count was down. He was a little bit shaky in the seventh with the three hit batters but other than that, I thought he pitched a really good game.”

Endecott pitched the final two innings and was perfect except for a one-out single by Shealy in the ninth.

Offensively, after their initial outburst, the Eagles had trouble scoring. Two errors by the Lions in the fourth led to one OC run, and the Eagles scored once in the eighth when Cory Eastwood reached on an infield single and eventually came home on Caleb Price’s single to left field.

“It was good to get out and get four runs in the first,” Cobble said. “I wish we could have put together some solid innings through the middle of the game. I felt we got a little complacent and set on the lead a little bit, but overall, I’m very pleased with what these guys have done.”

OC will return to action on Tuesday night, when the Eagles are scheduled to host Southwestern Oklahoma State at Dobson Field at 6 p.m.