Hawks open baseball season with doubleheader sweep

Heading into Thursday's season opener, Britt Smith was counting on pitching to be a strength for the Howard College baseball team.So far, so good.Five Howard pitchers combined to surrender only one earned run as the Hawks opened their season with a 7-4, 10-0 doubleheader sweep of Frank Phillips College at Jack Barber Field Thursday afternoon.In the opener, back-to-back homers by Jordan Allen and Colt Bickerstaff broke open a tie game in the sixth inning and made a winner of Austin Blount, the second of three Howard pitchers in the game. Nick Sawyer pitched a scoreless seventh to pick up the save.Starting pitcher Michael Franco, last year's pitcher of the year in the Western Junior College Athletic Conference, surrendered only one earned run in three innings of work, but two Howard errors allowed Frank Phillips to tie the game at 4-all heading into the decisive sixth inning.“Really, my only complaint about the way we played was our defense,” Smith said. “Defensively, we're not very sharp right now.”Howard's pitching staff continued its strong showing in the nightcap as Blake Smith and Spencer Davis combined for a two-hitter. Offensively, the Hawks capitalized on FPC error for five unearned runs in the first inning en route to the run-rule victory.“I guess the biggest difference (Thursday) is that when Frank Phillips made mistakes, we were able to score three or four runs as a result,” Smith said. “And when we made mistakes, we were able to minimize the damage.”Overall, Smith said he was very pleased with the way his team opened the season.“Our pitchering should be the strength of the team this year,” he said. “We didn't even get to Reid Scoggins, and he's been waiting 15 months to get back on the mound (after undergoing Tommy John surgery in 2010) … He'll definitely see some action (today).“Offensively, we're good, but not great, but that will get better as the season goes on,” Smith added.The Hawks and Frank Phillips continued their series today with a doubleheader beginning at noon at Barber Field.