Omaha Baseball and Ohio battle it out in Emerson, GA

Photo courtesy Omavs
Omaha and Ohio ended up splitting the series, with Maverick pitcher Payton Kinney throwing a no-hitter for Omaha in the game on Sunday

Andrew Nelson

The Omaha Mavericks (3-7) haven’t found an ounce of luck at the plate, or on the mound since going 2-1 on opening weekend. Omaha 1-6 since, has dropped two straight series but are gaining valuable experience with only five nonconference games left to tune-up before Summit League play begins against Fort Wayne March 16-18.

The starting rotation is beginning to take shape and although the line scores haven’t shown it, it’s already seen strong outings by the likes of junior right-hander Grant Suponchick (1-0), redshirt freshman right-handed Joey Machado (0-2) and freshman righty Jake Pennington (2-1). Another bright spot from this stretch is the emergence of the bottom of Omaha’s lineup at the plate. Freshman second basemen Max Gamm doubled twice in the Wichita State series and showed – along with senior catcher Adam Caniglia and junior first basemen Braden Rogers – that they can provide some life at the bottom of the order. The young talent already stepping up are signs for things to come, but for now there’s some kinks that need to be worked out.

Omaha took a short road trip Feb. 24 and 25 to Kansas for a series against the Wichita State Shockers (8-0). After weather pushed the series-opener back to Saturday afternoon, Suponchick got the start for Omaha and tossed five scoreless innings before getting relieved by Pennington in a 4-3 defeat. Pennington got the loss after giving up an RBI triple to Travis Young, who later scored to erase a two-run Maverick lead and give the Shockers the lead. WSU would tack one more on and take the series opener. Maverick leftfielder Thomas DeBonville hit an RBI double that gave the Mavericks their short-lived lead in the fifth inning. The junior had two hits on the day and scored a run.

Omaha lost the first of two Sunday 3-0, as the Mavericks fell victim to WSU right-hander Liam Eddy who allowed just three hits and had six strikeouts in 7 1/3 innings of work to earn the win. The top half of the Maverick lineup was left hitless while Machado took the loss after pitching a near-flawless six innings. Machado collapsed in a seventh inning that saw him give up a pair of runs, the final on a wild pitch, before Porter pulled the plug. To his credit, Machado faired the best of any Maverick pitcher that weekend against a productive Shocker lineup, and the Omaha-native can even chalk up a strikeout against a prospected first round MLB draft pick in junior centerfielder Greyson Jenista.

The second game of the day ended in a 6-2 Omaha loss, and it saw a combination of what hindered the Mavericks on the mound, and at the plate in the first two games of the series. Senior Payton Kinney pitched four solid innings before falling apart in the fifth. Kinney gave up a double, which set up a pair of Shocker RBI singles, topped off by back-to-back homers by Jenista and the other prospected first round MLB draft pick, junior third-basemen and Omaha-native, Alec Bohm. Kinney was stuck with the loss while junior Cal Hehnke came on in relief allowing one run and striking out five of the 13 batters he saw. The top half of the Maverick lineup was again quiet as WSU righty Connor Lungwitz tossed six shutout innings for the Shockers allowing just two hits and one walk to earn the win.

The Omaha baseball team remained in Kansas for a midweek showdown last Tuesday in Lawrence against Kansas (7-2), losing 6-2. Freshman lefty Spencer Koelewyn gave up a pair of runs in the first inning for Omaha, but the Mavericks came back to tie it in the third inning. Koelewyn allowed one more run before calling it a day after 3 1/3 innings. The Maverick lineup couldn’t shake right-handed junior Blake Goldsberry who came on to pitch 6 2/3 innings of relief for the Jayhawks. He earned the win allowing one hit, no runs and five strikeouts. The Maverick offense was able to muster up an RBI single by Rogers and a double by Suponchick, who got a pair of at-bats in at the DH spot.

Omaha headed to Emerson, Georgia last weekend to take part in a four-game series against Ohio (6-5) at Perfect Game Park at LakePoint. After giving up five runs in the first two innings, the Mavericks scored six unanswered in the fourth through eighth innings, to earn a 6-5 opening series win over the Bobcats.

The Bobcats walked in a run to get the Maverick rally started in the fourth, then DeBonville scored sophomore third basemen Cole Thibodeau on a fielder’s choice in the fifth. Junior Parker Smejkal knocked in Kiel Krumwiede with an RBI triple and later scored on a single by freshman second basemen Max Gamm in the sixth inning. Ben Palensky’s RBI double in the seventh tied it up, and DeBonville singled-in Gamm for go-ahead run in the eighth.

After Suponchick gave up five runs through nine batters to start the game, Jake Pennington came on for six innings of relief that earned him the win, while freshman right-hander Tommy Steier got his first career save. The Mavericks have had to rally at least two or more runs in each of their wins so far this season.

The action continued in Emerson on Saturday with a doubleheader. Omaha gave up a run in the top of the first, then held the Bobcats scoreless until giving up three in the ninth to drop the first game 4-1. Omaha’s Joey Machado recorded seven strikeouts in seven innings on the mound in another tough outing that didn’t result in a win. The Omaha lineup couldn’t crack Bobcat starter Gerry Salisbury, who threw eight innings and allowed just one run on four hits to earn the win.

Omaha took the lead early in the second game in the second inning, but Ohio snatched it back by a run the next half-inning. Omaha tied it in the fourth but gave up three runs the next half-inning and tallied the final score, 5-3. Hehnke was tagged with the loss, going four innings after getting the start. Caniglia had a pair of hits, including a double and Palensky homered in the loss. The final game of the series wasn’t played before publication of this article.

Omaha is back in action March 6 at Minnesota and head for Provo, Utah for a three-game series against BYU March 8-10.