Panthers squander lead late, fall to Redbirds


Kevin Hall

Brant Valach, an infielderfor the Panthers, swings at a pitch in the game against Illinois State University Tuesday at Coaches Stadium. The Panthers now have a record of 0-21.

Bob Reynolds, Sports Editor

Illinois State scored six runs off senior pitcher Adam Casson in the top of the ninth inning to defeat the Eastern baseball team, 18-14, at Coaches Stadium Tuesday.

Red-shirt junior Joe Kelch led off the top of the ninth with a solo home run to left field to tie the game at 13.

Junior Jared Hendren reached on a fielder’s choice with the bases loaded and one out, after Panther senior third baseman Brant Valach tried to throw the runner out at home, but junior catcher John DeVito could not hold on to the ball.

With the Redbirds up 14-13, junior Ryan Koziol doubled to left center, which scored three runs, extending the lead to 17-14. Kelch singled to left, scoring the 18th run of the game for Illinois State.

Casson finished the ninth inning allowing six runs on four hits and two walks while taking the loss for the Panthers on the mound.

After trailing 10-3 early in the game, senior Caleb Howell drove in three runs on a double to left field to tie the game at 10.

The Panthers took the lead after Valach doubled to right center, which scored Howell. Red-shirt junior Demetre Taylor drove in Valach to give the Panthers a 12-10 lead.

After Redbird red-shirt junior Paul DeJong hit his third home run of the game to tie the game at 12, Eastern senior second baseman Dane Sauer scored on a bunt to give the Panthers a 13-12 lead.

DeJong hit three of the seven home runs for the Redbirds. Illinois State scored 18 runs on 22 hits.

DeJong finished the day going 4-for-5 with six RBIs and four runs scored.

Valach said this was the first game the Panthers competed in for a full nine innings this season, despite losing.

“We have had trouble doing that early on in the year,” Valach said. “We would score a couple early, have the lead, then give it up and we would stay down in the game. It was nice to see some two out hits by Caleb. Demetre and Scholl had nice days too. We really competed today.”

The Panthers got production from every hitter in the order, but most importantly from the bottom of their lineup, which included Sauer, Casson and DeVito.

The three hitters went a combined 7-for-13 in Tuesday’s game and had three RBIs and scored six runs.

Sauer said getting production from the bottom of the lineup is a big boost for his team.

“It was great to see the guys in the bottom of the lineup do their job of getting on base,” he said. “That will be important for us to win games, so to do that today was a big step forward.”

Howell went 3-for-6 with six RBIs and scored three runs. Taylor had one of his best games on the season going 3-for-6 with four RBIs.

Freshman Joe Duncan continued his hot stretch of baseball, after batting nearly .500 over the weekend against Murray State.

Duncan finished the game going 4-for-6, scoring two runs. Sauer said Duncan is going to be an impactful player for the Panther offense moving forward.

“That kid is a good player for sure,” he said. “He’s only going to get better. He’s just a freshman, learning something new every day. He’s a darn good ball player, and he’s definitely going to come around.”

The loss drops the Panthers to 0-21 on the season. Eastern will be back in action for a Thursday-Saturday series against Tennessee Tech.

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