Behind stellar pitching and timely hitting, the Howard Payne Yellow Jackets are off to a 2-0 start to the 2018 baseball season, sweeping a season-opening doubleheader from the Schreiner Mountaineers, 8-1 and 3-0, Wednesday afternoon at Don Shepard Park.
In the Game 1 win, Brownwood graduate Seth Owen and Jonathan George teamed up toss a one-hitter, allowing just a single run in the top of the second inning with three strikeouts and five walks between them.
Owen tossed the first four innings to notch the win, giving up a run on one hit with three walks and a pair of strikeouts. George picked up the save by tossing three innings of no-hit ball with a strikeout and two walks.
Down 1-0 in the bottom of the third, the Yellow Jackets tallied the only two runs they needed to grab the lead.
Catcher J.W. Ledbetter, an Early graduate, doubled off Schreiner starter Montana Hammack to left-center field with two outs and scored when shortstop Joshua Gerrig followed with an RBI single down the right field line. Gerrig then stole second base ahead of the go-ahead RBI single from left fielder Jay Holland.
The Yellow Jackets stretched their lead to 6-1 in the bottom of the fifth as designated hitter Jacob Salazar led off with a single to right field, then Gerrig walked with one out. With two down, right fielder Blake Laney ripped a two-RBI triple to left-center field to increase the lead to 4-1. First baseman Blake Null's RBI bunt single brought home Laney, and Null later scored when third baseman David Groves reached on an RBI single to right field.
HPU tacked on two more runs in the bottom of the sixth as Salazar led off with a single, Ledbetter followed with a double then, after Gerrig reached on a fielder's choice that wiped out Salazar, Holland tripled in the final two runs.
The Yellow Jackets finished with 11 hits — two each by Holland, Salazar and Ledbetter along with one each from Laney, Null, Groves and center fielder Noah Payne. Holland's three RBIs were a team-best followed by the pair from Laney and one apiece from Gerrig, Null and Groves.
In the 3-0 nightcap victory for HPU, Preston Newman, Dylan Vilaros, Brenden Clanton and Evan Rodriguez combined for a six-hit shutout.
Newman started and worked four innings with three hits allowed, five strikeouts and one walk. Vilaros was credited with the win, tossing three innings of relief and yielding two hits and a pair of strikeouts with one walk. Clanton worked a perfect eighth inning, striking out two, while Rodriguez gave up a single in the ninth.
Offensively, the Yellow Jackets notched single runs in the second, third and fourth innings.
In the bottom of the second, Salazar led off with a single to left-center and right fielder Benjamin Lewis followed with a base hit up the middle. Left fielder Cliff Lunceford then reached via fielder's choice which retired Lewis at second, while a throwing error on the play allowed Salazar to score.
In the third, Payne led off with a single to center field, second baseman Jacob Rodriguez sacrificed the runner to second and Null came through with an RBI single to left-center field.
The run in the fourth was the result of an RBI sac fly by Payne, which brought home center fielder Bailey Smith, who began the frame by reaching on a Schreiner error.
Howard Payne finished with five hits — one each by Payne, Null, Salazar, Lewis, and Lunceford. Collecting RBIs were Payne, Null and Lunceford.
The Yellow Jackets (2-0) are off until Saturday, Feb. 17 when they host the University of Dallas in another doubleheader.