Baseball sweep puts team at a fork in the road

Photo Courtesy of

Ray Koch

Sophomore third baseman Parker Smejkal’s at-bats start long before he steps to the plate. In fact, they start before he even puts his jersey on.

The third basemen from the University of Nebraska at Omaha said he visualizes how every game will play out the night before the actual game.

“The key to my success is my preparation,” Smejkal said.

Smejkal’s “success” was much needed last weekend for the UNO Maverick baseball team. After getting swept in its home opener against South Dakota State, the Mavs had time to reflect on their season thus far.

Senior Sam Murphy called the Mavs start “embarrassing.” Five days later, Omaha traveled to Fort Wayne, Indiana to play Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne in a three-game series. With the Mavs ailing on all cylinders, the sophomore slugger helped awaken the Mavericks’ season.

In the opening game, the Mavs wasted no time getting on the board. In the first inning, with freshman Cole Thibodeau on second base, Smejkal lined a pitch right back up the middle to give the Mavs a 1-0 lead. They would tack on three more, which would be enough run support for junior Corey Binger. He got his second win of the year, surrendering one run in a complete game effort.

In game two, senior Sam Murphy threw his own complete game, giving up a lone run. Smejkal sparked the offense, going three-for-three with a pair of two-run bombs. Aided by 10 runs in the first inning, the Mavs went on to win 14-1 in a seven-inning contest.

UNO capped off the weekend in a thrilling come-from-behind 9-8 victory. Down 8-4 in the eighth inning, the Mavericks refused to rollover. A five-run, four-hit inning finally peaked when with the game tied 8-8 and the bases loaded, freshman Mark Ehresman was hit by a pitch to give the Mavs a 9-8 win and complete the sweep.

In Smejkal’s eyes, this winning streak was just a matter of when, not if.

“We were playing tough teams and showing bits of success,” Smejkal said, “but to put it all together for three games and come out with a sweep feels pretty good.”

After its recent ascendancy, the UNO baseball team now faces a crossroads in its season. Fans have seen the good, the bad and the ugly, but now Omaha must choose a path. For Smejkal, there’s only one option.

“We’ve shown we can win, Omaha baseball is ready to turn this season around and make our program proud,” Smejkal said.