Thomas coach Mike Lee called Friday’s 8-7 loss to Faulkner “sloppy baseball all the way around.”
The Night Hawks and Eagles combined for a whopping nine errors that titled the game’s momentum, lead and anxiety throughout.
After losing an early 3-1 lead, Thomas managed to rebound from a perturbed fourth inning where it allowed four runs. The Night Hawks took a 7-6 lead in the seventh, but Faulkner countered with two runs in the eighth, which could’ve been prevented, Lee said.
Relief pitcher John Gainey walked the first two batters. One scored on a wild throw into leftfield, and the other off a sacrifice fly – after he’d been moved to third following a stolen base and wild pitch.
In its game-winning inning, Faulkner didn’t even muster a hit.
“We made a few mistakes that kept them in the game,” Lee said. “You can’t afford to do that against the No. 1 team in the country.”
But fielding didn’t provide the only headache.
Thomas churned nine hits in Friday’s loss, but also accounted for 17 strikeouts – 10 of which came from the heart of the lineup.
“That’s almost six innings worth of not putting the ball in play,” Lee said.
Lee also credited Eagles pitcher Thomas Dorminy, who only threw one walk in 110 pitches. Dorminy utilized a first pitch fastball for the bulk of Friday’s game, which propelled him to 10 strikeouts.
Thomas assistant coach Boo Taylor said later in the game from the dugout to swing at the first pitch fastball if timing was right.
“If they’re going to square it up, go for it,” Lee said. “But the problem is that the one or two times that we swing at the first pitch, we either foul it off or dribble it somewhere.
Thomas pitcher Kurt Gens threw six innings and accounted for four strikeouts and all 13 hits allowed. It wasn’t the typical ace outing he’s accustomed this season, but he nonetheless, “kept us in the game,” Lee said.
“We weren’t being blown out by any stretch. I thought Kurt did a good job. And you’ve got to give Faulkner credit. They can really swing the bat.”
Lee broached that he would’ve kept Gens in had Friday’s game been a conference tilt. But because he wants to save his No. 1 starter for next weekend’s series against Ave Maria, he sent John Gainey in to close.
Gainey, who has been lights out this season, allowed no hits in his two innings, but the aforementioned errors cost Thomas late.
The Night Hawks and defending NAIA champion Eagles tee it up again on Saturday with a doubleheader beginning at noon. Game 1 will go seven innings and the finale will go nine.