Panthers head to Belmont for weekend series

Bob Reynolds, Sports Editor

The Eastern baseball team is heading into a weekend Ohio Valley Conference series with offensive powerhouse Belmont coming off a seven-game home stand in which it went 4-3.

The Panthers defeated Illinois College, Benedictine, Southeast Missouri and Indiana State for their four straight home games.

Eastern had its ups and down during the home stand. The Panthers scored a combined 42 runs in its last three wins, piling up over 35 hits as a team.

The Panthers were held to just one run in two of the games against Southeast Missouri over the weekend.

Eastern coach Jimmy Schmitz said his team has been playing good ball as of late with winning four out of their last seven games.

“The practices have been good,” he said. “The meetings, the workouts have been good. We are starting to win, and that is where confidence comes from.”

Eastern takes on a Belmont team that is 20-15 overall and has a 9-5 record in the conference. The Bruins are coming off a win against Memphis and a win against reigning NCAA Divison I National Champion Vanderbilt.

The Bruins lost their last conference series to Austin Peay in Clarksville, Tenn.

Belmont had a three-game stretch in late March where they scored 75 runs. The Bruins scored 34 runs and belted out 31 hits In the final game of a three-game series against Tennessee-Martin. The Bruins had a 20-run sixth inning in that game and had 12 home runs.

The Bruins scored 17 runs against Lipscomb University on March 31 and scored 21 runs against Southern Illinois-Edwardsville on April 2.

Belmont is led by Matt Beaty, who is hitting .415 this season and has 10 home runs on the year. Belmont, as a team, has 49 home runs, which is atop the OVC. Beaty’s slugging percentage is .775 and has 52 runs batted in.

Eastern senior third baseman Brant Valach said the series between the Panthers and Bruins should be a good one.

“They can hit, but so can we.” he said. “I think if we keep hitting like we are, then we can make it a great series.”

Eastern is starting freshman Andy Fisher on the mound Friday. This would be Fisher’s third collegiate start, and he has earned another shot. In the game against Southeast Missouri Sunday, Fisher threw 5 1/3 innings of shut-out baseball.

He is 0-3 with a 7.77 era and has struck out 12 batters this season. Junior Jake Johansmeier will start Saturday’s game, and red-shirt junior Matt Wivinis will start in Sunday’s game.

The Belmont rotation for the weekend has yet to be announced.

Eastern and Belmont will get underway in Nashville, Tenn. at 3 p.m. Friday at Rose Park.


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