HOBBS, N.M. (MacBulldogs.com) — The McPherson College Bulldogs opened the 2024 season this weekend on the road at the University of the Southwest, but finished just 1-3 in Hobbs, N.M.
Hayden Foster finished 6-for-13 at the plate with a double, while Essig went 5-for-16 with two doubles and five RBIs.
GAME ONE – USW 10, MC 2
It was not the start the Bulldogs were looking for in the opener, falling behind 4-0 after the first inning.
The Bulldogs loaded the bases in the second inning, but were unable to scratch across any runs. Southwest tacked on one run in each of the second and third innings.
Starr scored the Bulldogs first run of the season in the fifth with his first home run in a McPherson uniform.
After another one-run inning by the Mustangs, Kevinn Castillo homered in the sixth to make it a 7-2 deficit.
But from there, the Mustangs added three more in the bottom half of the inning.
Noah Carpenter got the start on the hill in game one, throwing two innings, allowing five runs on three hits with one strikeout.
The loss was the first season opening loss for the Bulldogs since 2014 when they fell to Northwood University 5-1.
GAME TWO – USW 14, MC 7
Essig opened the back half of the doubleheader with a lead-off home run to put the Bulldogs on top early, but the Mustangs answered with two runs in the bottom of the first and then put up a six spot in the second to take an 8-1 lead.
The Bulldogs showed some fight in the top of the third when Essig led off the inning with his second homer of the contest. Then a two-run blast by Andres Artola later in the frame, trimmed the lead to 8-4.
But USW had an answer, scoring four more in the fourth and a pair in the fifth to take a 14-4 advantage.
The Bulldogs scored once in the sixth when Koen Gakstatter reached on a fielder’s choice, scoring Artola. Then tacked on two more in the seventh, thanks to an RBI double by Dawson Walters followed by an infield single by Artola.
Brayden Noland made his first start in a Bulldog uniform, throwing 1.2 innings and allowing six runs.
GAME THREE – MC 8, USW 6
The Bulldogs picked up their first win of the season in game three, hanging on late to win 8-6.
Again the long ball was the method of scoring for the Bulldogs, grabbing a 1-0 lead in the top of the first when Starr launched his second homer of the weekend. The Mustangs answered with a homer of their own in the bottom half of the inning.
The Bulldogs regained the lead in the fourth after an RBI single by Luke Nordean drove in Hayden Foster, but again the Mustangs had an answer, knotting the score once again in the bottom of the fourth.
A two-run blast by Hayden Woods put the Mustangs on top 4-2, but the Bulldogs used a six-run sixth inning to take control.
Foster led things off for the Bulldogs with a single to left field, then Colin Evers followed with a two-run home run to level the score. Then, following a walk by Jorge Olivo, Essig double to left field to give the Bulldogs a 5-4 advantage. But the Bulldogs weren’t done yet thanks to a three-run shot by Castillo.
The Bulldogs were clinging to a two-run lead in the bottom of the seventh, but USW found themselves with the bases loaded with just one out. Ethan Alexander struck out the next batter, before forcing a ground out to second base.
Hayden Casey made the start for the Bulldogs and threw 4.2 innings with four strikeouts.
GAME FOUR – USW 11, MC 10
USW jumped out to a 6-0 advantage, including a four-run second inning, using two doubles and a pair of triples to mount the lead.
The Bulldogs pulled within 6-2 in the third, then used a five-run inning of their own to grab the lead.
MC loaded the bases in the top of the fourth, after a single by Walters and a double by Evers. Essig got the big inning started with an RBI double that brought home Evers and Walters. Castillo followed with a single to right center that scored Essig and Olivo. Artola finished off the inning with an RBI double to left field.
Starr pushed the Bulldogs’ lead to 9-7 in the top of the fifth with an RBI single, bringing Nordean and Evers around to score. Then, a solo blast by Walters in the top of the sixth closed out the scoring for the Bulldogs.
But from there, the Mustangs mounted the comeback in the bottom of the frame, scoring four runs to take the lead for good.
Evan Morrison got the call on the hill for the Bulldogs and threw 3.1 innings, striking out three, while allowing six earned runs.
The Bulldogs are back in action next weekend for a three game set, traveling to Chickasha, Okla. to take on (RV) USAO. The teams will play a single game on Friday (Feb. 2) followed by a doubleheader on Saturday (Feb. 3).