Wenthe powers Panthers to series win

Bob Reynolds, Sports Editor

Eastern freshman Bobby Wenthe hit a home run in each game of a three-game series against Belmont over the weekend.

The Panthers were able to take the first two games of the series but dropped Sunday’s contest, 7-6.

Wenthe went 5-for-11 in the weekend series and had six runs batted in.

Eastern senior second baseman Dane Sauer was impressed with Wenthe over the weekend.

“He’s got some of the most raw power I’ve ever seen,” he said. “The kid is unreal, and he only keeps getting better.”

After red-shirt junior Demetre Taylor homered to right field to give Eastern a 2-0 lead on Friday, Wenthe homered to give Eastern a 3-0 lead in the bottom of the first.

Freshman pitcher Andy Fisher started game one of the series and pitched five innings and allowed three runs in his first start since March 9 at Austin Peay.

Fisher has been working mostly out of the bullpen this season, but is getting a chance to start on occasion.

Eastern scored two runs in the ninth inning on two errors by Belmont, and the bullpen of the Panthers was able to shut the Bruins down in the final four innings.

Sophomore Chase Thurston pitched three innings, allowed no runs, and was credited with his second win of the season.

Red-shirt junior Matt Wivinis, who was the starting pitcher in game three, got the save in game one.

Belmont pitching was superior/stellar in game one as well as starter Dan Ludwig pitched 7 2/3 innings and allowed three runs on eight hits and was credited with a no-decision on the day.

Eastern was able to get two runs off Matthew Kinney, who took the loss. He pitched 1 1/3 innings and let up two hits, while striking out none of the seven Panther batters he faced.

Wenthe’s stretch continued into Saturday as he hit a 3-run homer in the top of the first inning to give Eastern a 4-0 lead.

Junior pitcher Jake Johansmeier allowed one earned run, two runs total, on seven hits in seven innings pitched and picked up his first win of the season.

Freshman Luke Dietz picked up the save for his first one of the year.

Sauer said the Panther pitchers went out there and did what they had to do.

“They did real well,” he said. “Makes it a lot easier on the offense.”

Wenthe was back at it again in game three as he hit a two-run home run in the fifth inning to tie the game at two.

The Panthers scored four runs in the top of the eighth inning to put themselves ahead, 6-2, but an error by freshman second baseman, Cale Hennemann, caused Belmont to take a 7-6 lead heading into the ninth inning.

Wivinis, who started the game for the Panthers Sunday, pitched seven innings and allowed three runs on nine hits and struck out one.

Dietz picked up the loss for the Panthers. He finished the game with 2/3 innings pitched and allowed four runs, one earned, on two hits.

Eastern got off to quick starts in all three games, which was important to getting the series win, Eastern senior third baseman Brant Valach said.

“That was big for us,” he said. “It’s always good to get ahead early. When you have a freshman on the mound like we did Friday, it’s important to get them a lead and help them feel comfortable.”

The Panthers have won their last 5-of-7 games and in those five wins they have scored 55 runs.

Valach said the team is just playing complete games now.

“We are hitting when we need to, and pitching when we need to,” he said. “Playing good defense has helped us as well.”

The Panthers improved their record to 7-27 on the season and 4-14 in conference play.

Eastern will be back in action Tuesday at the University of Illinois at 6:05 pm.

Bob Reynolds can be reached at 581-2812 or rjreynolds @eiu.edu