Green grass. Sweet crack of the bat. Take me out to the ballgame blasting over the speakers for the first time in months. It all just felt right.
The Memphis Tigers were back in action at FedEx Park over the weekend for their opening series against the Xavier Musketeers.
In the season opener Friday night, a 6-1 Memphis victory, these young Tigers showed what they are capable of when things are clicking. Hunter Goodman opened the year with a bang, crushing a solo homer that quickly reminded everyone why there are such high expectations for the sophomore from Arlington, Tennessee.
Starter pitcher Danny Denz threw five no-hit innings and retired five batters as the Tigers rolled to an impressive victory to start the new campaign 1-0.
They would not see the same success Saturday as strong pitching on both sides would rule the day. The duo of starter Carson Stinnett and reliever Bailey Wimberly turned in a fine day on the mound, only giving up three runs total and seven hits between them. Shortstop Ben Brooks led the way with a solo shot of his own and three of the four total hits the Tigers had for the day.
However, it was the Musketeers’ Nick Zwack’s dominant nine-strikeout effort that carried the visitors to the 3-1 series-tying victory.
“This is kind of the adversity we’ve been training for,” shortstop Ben Brooks said Saturday post-game. “Everything isn’t going to go our way, which it didn’t today offensively, but we’ve been working on it, and that’s why we’ve done it. I think our team is mentally strong enough to handle it and we’ll come out better tomorrow.”
In Sunday’s rubber match, a 9-6 series-clinching win for Xavier, it was clear that this new-look roster had a lot of fight to it. Despite not getting the result they wanted, they proved their resiliency. Goodman, coming off one of his worst games as a Tiger, answered with two more hits and his second homer in three days.
Third baseman Alec Trela bounced back with two hits and an RBI after struggling at the plate for most of the weekend. Brooks added another hit to his stat sheet. Freshman Austin Baskin added two hits of his own after going 0-4 at the plate Saturday.
“I liked our at-bats today,” Tigers head coach Daron Schoenrock said after Sunday’s loss. “Lot of real competitive at-bats. We barreled a lot of balls up and that’s kind of a typical Sunday game. You’re going to get a few more pitches to hit than you’ve gotten Friday and Saturday as the pitching gets thinner as the weekend goes. I thought out guys handled that well.”
Schoenrock will now gear up to take his Tigers on the road to Conway, Arkansas for a one-game test at Central Arkansas. Just like the Tigers, the Bears also opened with a 1-2 home series loss to Missouri State and will be eager to get their record back to .500 as the new season ramps up.
“Good challenge. It’ll be good to get on the road and get in a little different environment,” Schoenrock said. “Every day is going to be a learning experience for four or five guys in our lineup that are playing every day now.”
First pitch in Conway is set for 4 p.m. Wednesday at Bear Stadium.