The game of baseball is defined by hot streaks and cold streaks.
Although the ORU Golden Eagles are experiencing a drop-off
from last season’s success, the team remains competitive while poised to make a late season run.
Last year, the Golden Eagles went 36-27, tying for first place in the Summit League, but winning the tournament to clinch an NCAA berth.
They were offensively dominant, sporting a team batting average of .323 and launching 105 balls out of J.L. Johnson Stadium and other parks they visited.
That firepower, however, has been missing this season, partially due to a tough schedule and under-par performances from key offensive players.
The Eagles are batting an acceptable .270, but they are suffering a major power outage with just seven home runs.
The door hasn’t closed on the Golden Eagles just yet, thanks to a vast improvement in two fundamental areas: pitching and defense.
Last season, the Eagles’ bats made up for their arms and gloves.
Based on a team 6.07 earned run average (ERA), 352 earned runs and 92 errors, ORU looked like a team that could score five runs in a game only to lose by giving up six.
This year’s team is a different story. The Golden Eagles are on pace to allow only 194 earned runs and 60 errors. The pitching crew currently sports an ERA of 3.82.
Credit for the turnaround should go to four-time Summit League Coach of the Year Rob Walton.
Walton is known around the league as a fantastic pitching coach, and this season it is really showing.
“You have to coach with a plan and a goal in mind,” he said. “We have a plan in place, which is geared toward helping us reach our ultimate goals: being a consistent Top-25 program and, most importantly, getting to Omaha.”
If anything, the team’s main reason for not giving up hope on this season is due to a flawless 4-0 record in Summit League play.
The Eagles are currently riding a six-game winning streak.
Their recent sweep of Centenary is evidence of the Eagles’ turnaround.
During the four-game home stand, Eagles’ pitchers allowed only three earned runs.
Playing at home also continues to provide a great advantage.
The past two seasons, the Eagles led their conference with an impressive 15-1 home record against Summit League opponents.
However, the Eagles have several major series coming up that could make or break their season.
Of the final 25 games (including four doubleheaders), 22 are conference match-ups, meaning that a bad record down the stretch could spell trouble.
One of these match-ups is their final game against a top-25 ranked opponent, which could prove to be a test of the Eagles’ grit: No. 12 Arkansas.
Arkansas’ pitching staff will prove to be a robust challenge for the Eagles, as they have befuddled batters this season.
The Razorbacks ERA (3.09) and strikeouts per-inning (8.0) impressively rank them at 36th and 39th in the nation.
But have no fear, Eli!
The Eagles’ record in these types of situations is the definition of “clutch.” In the past three seasons, the Eagles have finished a combined 22-7 during the last 10 games of the season.
ORU has clinched an NCAA playoff berth in each of the last 13 years, and thanks to vast improvements in pitching and fielding, the Eagles hope to bounce back for a strong half of the season as they go for a 14th Summit League
title and the chance to extend their season into the summer.