TULSA, Okla. – Looking back at the 2013 Oral Roberts University baseball season, which came to a close on May 25 at the Southland Conference Tournament, there were many highs and lows over the course of the season.
Start with the opponent that gave the Golden Eagles both losses at the end of the season in Central Arkansas. The Golden Eagles and the Bears entered the first weekend of conference play on March 22 on opposite ends of the spectrum; ORU was in the middle of the longest losing streak in school history (11), while the Bears held a No. 23 ranking.
However, the roles quickly reversed as the Golden Eagles swept the series at home against the Bears. It was the first three-game series sweep against a ranked opponent in program history.
That is where the tale of two seasons began. The Golden Eagles battled injuries from the very beginning, and were forced to allow time for healing during non-conference play. Including the sweep of UCA, the Golden Eagles finished with a conference mark of 16-11, winning six out of nine series, while finishing just 7-19 in non conference play.
While not the prettiest non-conference record, the brutal out of league schedule included three game series’ against No. 8 Cal State Fullerton and NCAA Tournament participants Saint Louis, as well as mid-week games against Oklahoma, Wichita State, Mississippi State and Oklahoma State, all of whom also earned a spot in the NCAA Tournament. In all, there were seven teams on the ORU schedule who earned a berth in the postseason.
After winning the first two games of the conference tournament against Stephen F. Austin and Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, both of whom won the regular season series against the Golden Eagles, ORU finished the season 25-32 overall.
“The overall outcome was obviously disappointing, and we feel like we should still be playing,” said first-year Head Coach Ryan Folmar. “But I’m very proud of the way our guys competed, the way they represented the university, the way they represented the program. We fought through a bunch of adversities, so in that regard, I’m very happy with the outcome.”
“The new league is outstanding and we are excited to be a part of it. Going into next season, we know a lot more about what to expect out of the league. It was a good experience overall in the first year and overcoming the adversities.”
The determination and resilience of the overall season could be seen in two guys in particular. Despite dealing with an ankle injury and a foot injury, Jose Trevino took over the everyday catcher role. Trevino finished as the team leader in homeruns with eight and runs batted in with 37, while throwing out 19 runners from behind the plate, the second most by an ORU catcher since 2001.
Drew Bowen also dealt with a lot on the injury front, but took the mound against Texas A&M-Corpus Christi in the conference tournament and proved why he is called upon in big situations. Bowen took a no-hitter into the seventh inning and struck out a season high seven batters en route to the victory.
“Anyone who has been close to the program knows what (Bowen) brings, especially in the postseason,” mentioned Folmar. “From conference tournaments to regional appearances, every time he touched the ball in big moments, he has been really, really good.”
“He battled a lot of things with being nicked up all year long. He took the ball every time and gave us a chance to win. When you look at guys and roles they need to take on, the one thing you want to make sure is the time the guy gets the opportunity, you want him to be the same guy and the same kind of competitor. And Drew has been that guy for four years.”
Bowen and the rest of the pitching staff was the second best staff in the Southland this season with a team ERA of 3.54, while holding a conference best 2.84 ERA in league play only.
A big part of the pitching success was the outstanding season by Alex Gonzalez. Finishing with a 9-5 record and an ERA of 1.83, Gonzalez was named the SLC Pitcher of the Year, as well as a first team All-SLC selection. He finished the regular season with the second most strikeouts in the nation.
For the season, the junior Gonzalez struck out 126 batters, third most in program history and moved his way up the ORU career list into the fourth spot with 292. In the final weekend of the regular season at Northwestern State, he tied a career high with 13 strikeouts in eight innings of scoreless work.
“Those guys (Bowen, Gonzalez and Tim Zufall) meant a lot to us as far as what they brought on the weekend,” said Folmar. “But we have a lot of guys that we feel comfortable that can step up and take on some big roles on the mound.”
At the plate, Kevin Cho finished the season with a .296 average to lead the team. Just behind Cho was designated hitter Tyler Boss at .295. Boss was just behind Trevino with seven home runs, had 10 doubles and recorded a pair of triples on March 12 at Texas, the first time the feat had happened since 2004.
Trevino and Boss each finished as third team All-SLC selections, and sophomore Logan Domenico was named to the SLC All-Tournament team after hitting .563 in the four games with nine hits, including four doubles.
As the season came to a close, the Golden Eagles said goodbye to seven seniors. While ORU will await the upcoming MLB Draft to see if they will lose any other players, the Golden Eagles are scheduled to return 12 position players and 10 pitchers such as Nathan Garza who led the team with 26 appearances, Kurt Giller who seven starts and 18 total appearances and mid-week starter Gavin Glanz.