Panthers battle Redbirds in mid-week contest


Jason Howell

Senior pitcher Andrew Grahn warms up on the mound during the Panthers’ 18-7 loss against Murray State on Saturday at Coaches Stadium. Grahn pitched three innings and allowed one hit and had three strike outs during the game.

Bob Reynolds, Sports Editor

The Eastern baseball team will be looking for its first win Tuesday against Illinois State at Coaches Stadium at 3 p.m.

The Panthers are coming off three straight losses over the weekend at the hands of the Murray State Racers.

Eastern was beaten 18-7, 8-4 and 8-2 in those games, but did have some bright spots Panther coach Jimmy Schmitz said.

“I thought we had a better identity,” he said. “Obviously, we didn’t swing the bat as well as well as we wanted too. I am just feeling like we have some chances to make some defensive plays, which is a positive thing.”

The Panthers got production from the top of their top hitters over the weekend in freshman Joe Duncan and senior Brant Valach. The duo went a combined 11-for-23 over the weekend with five runs batted in.

Schmitz will start senior pitcher Andrew Grahn in the game Tuesday. Grahn got his first appearance Saturday and struck out the side.

Grahn said the biggest thing he wants to do Tuesday is just to go out and compete.

“Throw strikes, keep the ball down in the zone and try to give my team the best chance to win,” he said.  “Coming in with the same mindset, going to attack hitters and let my defense do the work.”

Eastern struggled to get production from the bottom of its order this past weekend as it went a combined 2-for-32

Schmitz said that it is key for his team to get production from the bottom of the order.

“It is a real issue,” he said. “When you keep talking about negativity kind of things, it really doesn’t help. The confusion is that (senior Adam Casson) and Marshawn really know what their role is and to do it in a game is different. That is that huge gap from practice to game. We just have to keep sticking with them and hopefully they identify what they need to do.”

Illinois State comes into the game with an 11-13 record overall and a 1-9 record on the road.

They are led by red-shirt junior Paul DeJong who is batting .408 on the season with seven home runs and 25 rbis. He also has 40 hits in the season in 24 games played.

Despite the fact that that Illinois State has five hitters batting over .300, Schmitz said the main focus is to focus on themselves and how to get that first win of the season.

“We haven’t even looked at them,” he said. “We talked just about us. My concern right now is getting these guys on the teams’ energy up. It is really not about Illinois State. It is about getting the morale of this team up, getting people to feel about themselves and going out there and playing better. That is my ultimate goal this week.”

The Panthers and Redbirds will get underway at 3 p.m. Tuesday at Coaches Stadium.

Bob Reynolds can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected].