Over the past few seasons, falling behind by four runs often would have been too much for the UNO baseball team to overcome.
Those days seem to be a thing of the past.
The Privateers leaned on their offense to overcome an early deficit and held on late for a 9-8 win over Valparaiso on Sunday afternoon at Maestri Field, clinching a sweep of their first weekend series of the season.
“I’m really proud of our guys and the way they’ve started this season off so fast,” UNO coach Blake Dean said. “We have to learn how to do a better job closing games like this out, but our players deserve a ton of credit for the progress they’ve made coming into this season.”
In Dean’s first season as head coach, the Privateers are 6-1 for the first time since 1996, and the youngest coach in Division I has delivered on his promise to drastically improve the team at the plate.
UNO outscored the Crusaders 23-11 over the three-game series and ranked third in the Southland Conference in runs (59) and home runs (five) after Sunday’s game. Last season, the Privateers finished last in the Southland in both categories.
First baseman Preston Marsh led the way for the Privateers, going 5-of-10 from the plate over the three games with five RBIs and three runs.
“The biggest thing for us is that everybody in the lineup is hitting with a ton of confidence right now,” Marsh said. “Confidence is always the biggest thing in baseball. All of our guys are playing aggressive at the plate, and the rest of the team has been able to feed off of that.”
After Valparaiso (1-5) grabbed its 4-0 lead, UNO got on the board when Aaron Palmer and Sammy Capielano drove in runs to make it 4-2 going into the fourth inning.
The Privateers took their first lead on Ryan Calloway’s RBI single in the fourth, and Capielano’s second RBI made the score 6-4 going into the fifth.
The Crusaders added two runs in the seventh to cut their deficit to 7-6, but UNO responded with a two-run double by Marsh that made it 9-6 and gave it enough cushion to hold on.
“Starting our first weekend series with a sweep was huge for us,” outfielder Hezekiah Randolph said. “We haven’t been able to do that over the past two years, and it’s a big confidence boost for us going forward.”
Along with the hot offensive start, another pleasant surprise for the Privateers has been how steady Daniel Martinez has been as the closer. The former Newman standout recorded his second save in as many days and fourth of the season after closing out Sunday’s win.
Martinez didn’t have any saves last season, and the Privateers only registered two as a team.