By: Mike Hammett/ULM Athletics
MONROE, La. – Steve Owings picked up his first career win in the first start of his career as ULM scored a season-high 18 runs on 14 hits, cruising past Jackson State, 18-6, Wednesday night at Warhawk Field.
Owings (1-0) was strong in his first start, throwing five innings. He allowed three runs, two earned, on four hits with one walk and six strikeouts while firing 80 pitches. Owings said his nerves calmed after a perfect first inning.
“That’s something that we’ve always talked about is getting that first batter out and honestly, as soon as I got him out, I felt comfortable,” Owings said. “I settled in more. My heart was still racing, but to get that 1-2-3 on deep ground balls felt good.”
The Warhawk offense wasted little time in helping Owings calm his nerves, as well. Ryan Humeniuk opened the bottom of the first inning with a single to right field. Trace Henry laid down a bunt for a single, but a throwing error by Jackson State pitcher Ryan Jackson allowed Humeniuk to score and Henry to advance to third as ULM grabbed the 1-0 lead. Henry scored moments later on a wild pitch for the 2-0 lead.
ULM broke the game open in the third inning as the first six men who stepped to the plate scored. Travis Washburn hit a 2-RBI single to right, while Wiley Cleland reached on an error on a sacrifice bunt which scored Justin King. After Logan Wurm walked, Colby Deaville hit a sacrifice fly to plate Washburn. Humeniuk’s RBI single brought Cleland home and Wurm crossed the plate on Henry’s sacrifice fly to cap the 6-run inning with an 8-0 lead.
“It definitely felt different than the way it’s felt recently,” Henry said of the offense. “I think that we did put pressure on. We put the ball on the ground and tried to make them make plays because we’re really fast. Here lately, we’ve been hitting some fly balls that don’t really give us a chance. Tonight, we gave ourselves a chance.”
Owings faced adversity in the fourth inning, allowing a 2-run home run to Chandler Dillard, but settled back down to retire the next three hitters.
“The offense really helped me out with that,” Owings said of the adversity. “The bats were rolling. We scored some runs early and having that cushion of those runs just clears my head easily. I just knew that me and Wurm were on the same page, so we just kept on working and flushed everything out.”
“We knew when we recruited him that he was a starting pitcher in junior college and really felt like he was going to be something different from a look standpoint because he can sink the ball, he’s got a really good slider and his changeup was really good tonight,” ULM head coach Michael Federico said. “I’m super excited for him. He’s a relentless worker. He’s a great teammate. He doesn’t complain. Hopefully, he has that confidence now that he can find a role for us.”
The offense gave him plenty more support, starting in the bottom of the fifth inning. The Warhawks scored three runs in the inning and added another in the sixth before Grant Schulz hit a grand slam in the seventh inning. ULM added two more runs in the eighth inning as they continued to pour it on.
Seven Jackson State pitchers combined to issue 12 walks while the Tiger defense committed three errors.
“When you do that to us, it becomes very challenging to beat us,” Federico said. “To compound us, we executed a couple of bunts and they ended up throwing a couple of balls away and led to three more runners that got on with some errors. You don’t need to have a lot of big, loud hits with home runs and doubles when you’re doing those things. It was definitely something that hopefully our guys can build off of for this stretch that we have.”
Humeniuk was a perfect 3-for-3 at the plate with two RBIs and two runs scored. Holt and Washburn had two hits and two RBIs each. Ty Hill had three hits to lead Jackson State.
The game marks the end of a five-games-in-five-days stretch for ULM. The Warhawks went 3-2 in the span.
“It’s not easy,” Henry said. “That’s what you live for. That’s what you play the game for whenever you’re little. That’s all you want to do is play. I’d rather do this than practice, that’s for sure. It’s definitely a lot of fun. It is tough on the body, but that’s why we prepare for things like this.”
The Warhawks get a day off on Thursday before opening a weekend series against Southern on Friday at Warhawk Field. Weather is likely to impact Friday’s game time, which is currently set for 6 p.m. with the series continuing at 2 p.m. Saturday and 1 p.m. Sunday. Visit ULMWarhawks.com for the latest updates on this weekend’s game times.