Ben Overman admits that he throws with a completely different outset when his team is in the lead.
The third-year ace led the Night Hawks to a 12-2 win over Sun Conference foe Warner on Friday behind Thomas’ stout offense, which accounted for ten hits.
Overman threw 98 pitches in seven innings including five strikeouts while allowing four hits and three walks.
His ERA dropped to a team-low 2.04 among TU’s four starting pitchers.
“We’ve been very pleased with Ben’s performance all year,” TU pitching coach Boo Taylor said. “He’s getting after hitters, keeping them off balance and makes them get theirselves out a lot of times.”
Thomas again relied on a strong offensive start. The Night Hawks scored five runs in the first inning and brought their season tally to 36 in the opening inning.
Warner loaded the bases with TU’s first three batters, walked in a freebie, then was victim of an Andrew Crane squeeze. Josh Bruijn followed with a two-out double that brought in two more, then scored when Jeremy Crosby singled to left field.
Crane brought in his second RBI the next inning with a base hit to left, then Brandon Singer added another squeeze to give the Night Hawks a comfortable, seven-run cushion.
“When you get that run support, it’s really relaxing and makes my job a lot easier,” Overman said. “We’ve struggled with that some this season but it was nice to have today.”
During Singer’s next at bat, a wild pitch brought home Chris Kitlas, then Singer’s single scored Trey Griffin, giving the Night Hawks a 9-0 lead through four innings.
Austin Palmer added to Warner’s anxiety with a two-run home run in the fifth, and Singer moved from second to third and home on a series of wild pitches in the sixth.
“That was really good baseball today,” TU coach Mike Lee told the team after the game. “It’s nice to be in the position we’re in at this time of the year.”
Thomas (24-16, 15-7), which has never qualified for the Sun Conference Tournament, can officially punch its postseason ticket with a win in Saturday’s doubleheader.
The Night Hawks currently retain the No. 4 seed – behind Embry-Riddle, St. Thomas and Southeastern – but can jump as many as two spots with help and a few wins in next weekend’s home series against St. Thomas.
“It feels good,” Overman said. “I wanted to give my team the chance to get the second spot. The higher you are, the worse teams you play early [in the tournament].”