College Baseball: Texas State falls in season opener
Like a scorned lover the day after Valentine's Day, Bobcat Ballpark didn't show hitters any compassion Friday afternoon.
A steady 18-mile per hour wind blew in from the east and stopped routine fly balls in their tracks, instead of pushing them over the fence. It turned Texas State's season opener against Missouri State into a pitchers' duel and small-ball fest.
Even though the Bobcats' pitching staff — led by junior Kyle Finnegan — was up to the challenge, their bats left a lot to be desired. Finnegan struck out 11 in six innings, but Texas State left 12 men on base in a 3-2 extra-inning loss to the Bears.
"We were good all the way around on the mound," Bobcat head coach Ty Harrington said. "The field set up so that it would be a big ballpark. We knew that. We gave ourselves chances early in the game to score and didn't take advantage. We have to do a better job offensively, no question."
Other than a shaky third inning (where Finnegan allowed his only two runs of the afternoon) and the ill-fated 11th (where Texas State closer Hunter Lemke, in his second inning of work, walked the leadoff batter and allowed the eventual game-winning hit), the Bobcats pitchers looked solid.
Finnegan, who spent the summer pitching in the renowned Cape Cod League, mixed speeds well and dominated Missouri State with his fastball. At least seven of Finnegan's 11 strikeouts came by way of his fastball, which topped out at 97-miles per hour and sat around 92-94 most of the afternoon.
"We were kind of setting it up to where the fastball would be the out pitch," Finnegan said. "They were calling outside fastballs and I just tried to hit my spots."
Once Finnegan took a seat after throwing 108 pitchers (66 strikes), Harrington used four pitchers in relief. Notwithstanding Lemke's rough inning: senior Covey Morrow, redshirt freshman Andrew Boes, Lemke and sophomore Austen Williams combined to throw five innings of three-hit ball with four punch-outs.
Chances for strikeouts were equally as prevalent for the Bears, as Texas State couldn't figure out the visitor's pitchers. Bobcat batters struck out 12 times, including sophomore second baseman Colby Targun's whiff in the bottom of the ninth with two outs and men on second and third. Targun never took the bat off his shoulder on a 3-2 count.
Missouri State notched the winning run in the top of the 11th after Lemke walked Eric Cheray to start the inning. Cheray moved to second on a sacrifice bunt and Dylan Becker knocked him in with a single up the middle.
"I really thought we'd come out and give ourselves a chance to win — and we did," Harrington said. "Just like I said before, their guy hit a ball where we weren't and it got us."
Texas State returns to the field Saturday afternoon in the second day of the CenturyLink Bobcat Invitational against Tulane. First pitch is scheduled for 1 p.m.