Lopers go deep in first at bat, fall to UCO

UNK's Brett Young (1) hits a home run in the Lopers first at-bat of their first home game in the final season of the program, March 2, 2018 (KHGI)

Central Oklahoma senior right hander Ryan Lemoine last seven innings and the Broncho offense pounded out 19 hits to beat Nebraska-Kearney, 13-5, Friday afternoon at Memorial Field.

This was UNK’s home opener and the first of three with UCO. The Bronchos (9-5, 4-0) have now won seven straight over the Lopers (5-9, 2-2).

On a day with the wind blowing firmly out to center and left field, the teams not surprisingly combined to belt seven home runs (five for UCO and two for UNK). The ‘Chos had the biggest blast, a very high pop up to left that resulted in a “Grand Slam” by senior center fielder Caleb Peters (2 for 4, two runs) in the top of the third. That made the score 5-1 and UCO eventually led 7-1 before UNK tried to rally.

“Honestly, we didn’t play very well. We got off to a rough start, allowing them a run in the first and then came back to tie it with a big home run. But we couldn’t get out of the third (inning). The ball that left the yard for the Grand Slam was something the conditions definitely effected,” said Loper head coach Damon Day.

The Lopers scored four in its half of the fourth to make it a two-run deficit. Senior designated hitter Scott Platt (2 for 4, one run) hit a two-run single to center and then junior right fielder Pate Katechis (2 for 4, one run) followed with a deep homer to right center.

However, Lemoine (3-1) settled down from there, blanking UNK over the next three innings. A transfer from Division I Arkansas-Little Rock, he allowed five earned on two walks and eight hits. On a windy day, Lemoine also coaxed UNK to ground out 10 times with junior shortstop Bryant Klusener having four of the assists. He is a transfer from Division I Wichita State.

The first three Lopers reached safely in the ninth against the second of two ‘Chos relievers but senior righty Dylan Harper entered and got a strikeout, pop up and grounder to third to end the potential comeback.

Offensively for UCO, all nine starters had at least one hit with seven having at least two. Besides the dingers, the ‘Chos managed four doubles and stole four bases. Besides Peters, senior third baseman Anthony Alvarez (4 for 5, one run and three RBI’s) and senior second baseman Kyle Miskovsky (3 for 6, four runs and one RBI) had big days.

“Mitchell (Robinson) would be the first to tell you he didn’t pitch very well today. His change up was good in the first but he didn’t have the ability to locate it after that. When he has to go fastball and breaking ball, and then the breaking ball is getting caught up in the breeze and doesn’t have the same bite, it’s hard to go after that team with one pitch,” said Day. “He’s a really good pitcher when he has all three things working.”

For Kearney, leadoff hitter and center fielder Brett Young (3 for 4, one run and one RBI) joined Platt (Longmont, Colo.) and Katechis (Longmont, Colo.) as Lopers to have a multi-hit game. He led off the Loper first with a dinger to center with Katechis throwing out Alvarez at home in the top of the second.

Finally, senior lefty Bradley Brown (Aurora, Colo.) fanned six in 4.0 innings of relief work. He shut out UCO in the sixth and allowed three earned.

“We saw some really good things out of Brad Brown. It was good to see him come in and throw strikes. That’s a huge boost for our pitching staff and he’s a guy that we need to pitch well and I thought he did today,” said Day.

The second came of the series begins Saturday at 2 p.m.

Courtesy UNK Sports Information

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