The great unknown awaits Jimmie baseball back in North Dakota this week. Fueled with that knowledge, the University of Jamestown dominated its first two Great Plains Athletic Conference games in what could be an incredibly short season Saturday in Tucson, Arizona.
Shutdown starting pitching and efficient offense early led to the Jimmies streaking past Dakota Wesleyan University 8-0 in seven innings and 7-1 in nine innings on Jamestown’s final day at the annual Tucson Invitational Games. Current circumstances withstanding, the Jimmies won’t play again until April 9 -- 26 days away.
The GPAC will enact a three-week suspension of all sports activities, including organized practices and competitions, beginning Monday through April 5 in response to the worldwide novel coronavirus pandemic. The league’s decision came one day after the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics canceled all of its winter sports championships.
The GPAC stated it will reevaluate its decision on March 27, but the Jimmies currently stand to lose 10 of 22 remaining conference games and 12 out of a possible 16 home games if action is even resumed at all. The NAIA has yet to announce any direct action regarding spring sports.
“Hopefully we have a chance to finish out the season and keep playing baseball,” said Jimmie baseball coach Tom Hager. “I really like my team. They’re an outstanding, talented group and they play the game the right way.”
Senior starting pitchers Dru Fitz and Kensaku Akiya set the tone Saturday in the desert. Fitz, a right-hander from Gresham, Oregon, dominated six scoreless innings against the Tigers in game 1, striking out 11 and allowing just three singles to zero walks as the Jimmies rolled 8-0.
The Jimmies’ Dylan Haney fired a hitless seventh and struck out the Tigers’ designated hitter Zack Saterwhite to end the game.
Akiya, a righty from Kawasaki, Japan, allowed two singles over seven scoreless, striking out five in the Jimmies’ 7-1 game 2 victory. Fitz improved to 2-0 in four starts, while Aikya picked up victory No. 1 after going 7-0 for the Jimmies in 12 starts last season.
“We feel pretty good about both those guys when they take the mound,” Hager said. “They both attacked the strike zone all day long, and I think that by scoring some runs early in both games it took the pressure off a little bit and let them both settle in.”
The Jimmies plated five runs in the bottom of the first in game 1. Senior masher Lincoln Trujillo launched the first pitch he saw Saturday over the fence for a two-run home run, shortly after junior slugger Luke Shekeryk smacked his first of three RBI doubles in the game from the left-handed batter’s box.
Shekeryk, a junior college transfer from Columbia Basin College, Washington, is slashing .421/.69/.526 with 11 walks and 10 RBIs in 14 games wearing Jimmie orange. Trujillo has made his 16 hits this season count, posting six homers, four doubles and a triple, slugging .556 and driving in 17 runs.
But helping to set the table all week long for the Jimmies in Arizona was senior Grant Okawa. The shortstop from Mississauga, Ontario, led the Jimmies to six wins in eight games by batting .464 (13 of 28) with three home runs, two doubles, eight runs scored and 11 RBIs.
Okawa posted four hits in eight at-bats Saturday
“When Grant can get on base at the top of the order it really sets up things nice for Shekeryk and Trujillo, and he did a great job of that in both games today,” Hager said. “(Shekeryk and Trujillo) are two really good hitters that can beat you not only with singles and doubles, but they can hit the long ball and during most of the trip we were clicking on all cylinders because those guys are doing some damage and Okawa was setting the stage.
“I was really happy with how we swung the bats, especially today.”
UJ sophomore catcher Dirk Eymundson added a solo homer, and junior second baseman Ben Pedigo connected for an RBI double in the five-run first. Shekeryk later scored Okawa with his second RBI double in the fourth, and a Derek Almanza RBI single and Shekeryk’s final run-producing double rounded out the scoring in the sixth.
A second five-run inning by UJ had the Tigers and 2019 GPAC Pitcher of the Year Dominique Boerger reeling in the second inning of game 2. Senior second baseman Jared Bentley drove in a run with a one-out, bases-loaded single, while Brian Rice drove in a pair and Okawa and Shekeryk came up with run-producing knocks, all with two outs.
Sophomore third baseman Kendall Yackley drove in a run on a sacrifice fly in the sixth. Senior left fielder Matt Meraz produced an RBI single in the seventh.
The Jimmies banged out 24 hits in the two games, improving to 17-5 overall. Boerger made it six innings, allowing six earned runs on nine hits against the Jimmies’ potent lineup.
“That was a good win,” Hager win. “We set the tone by swinging the bats and doing it from beginning to end in both games.”
Now the Jimmies -- the defending GPAC tournament champions who received votes in the latest NAIA top 25 coaches' poll -- will wait.
(RV) Jamestown 8, Dakota Wesleyan 0
DW 000 000 0 -- 0 3 0
UJ 500 102 X -- 8 13 0
Ethan Davis and Kyle Bailey. Dru Fitz, Dylan Haney (7) and Dirk Eymundson. W--Fitz. L--Davis.
UJ highlights: Fitz 6 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 11 SO; Haney 1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 1 SO; Luke Shekeryk 4-4, 3 2B, 3 RBI, R; Ben Pedigo 2-3, 2 2B, RBI, R; Grant Okawa 2-4, 2B, R; Lincoln Trujillo 1-4, HR, 2 RBI; Eymundson 1-3, HR, RBI' Derek Almanza 1-1, RBI.
Records: Jamestown 16-5, 1-0 GPAC. Dakota Wesleyan 6-9, 0-1.
(RV) University of Jamestown 7, Dakota Wesleyan 1
DW 000 000 001 -- 1 4 0
UJ 050 001 10X -- 7 11 1
Dominique Boerger, Caleb Johnson (7), Jacob Scully (8) and Bailey. Kensaku Akiya, Austin Pesicka (8), Andy Reed (9), Aaron Pugh (9) and Eymundson. W--Akiya. L--Boerger.
UJ highlights: Akiya 7 IP, 2 H, 0 ER, 2 BB, 5 SO; Matt Meraz 2-4, RBI, R; Okawa 2-4, BB, RBI, R; Jared Bentley 2-3, RBI, R; Trujillo 1-4, 2B, R; Brian Rice 1-4, 2 RBI, R; Shekeryk 1-5, RBI; Kendall Yackler 1-2, RBI, BB; Chase Hacker 1-3, 2 R, BB.
Records: Jamestown 17-5, 2-0 GPAC. Dakota Wesleyan 6-10, 0-2.