Panthers swept by Jacksonville State


Sean Hastings

Redshirt senior Matt Wivinis fires a pitch Friday at Coaches Stadium against Jacksonville State. The Panthers lost all three games in the series.

Maher Kawash, Staff Reporter

The Eastern baseball team had chances to defeat conference foe Jacksonville State but instead the Panthers were swept in a three game series.

The Panthers welcomed the Gamecocks into Coaches Stadium for an Ohio Valley Conference matchup over the weekend, and all they came away with was three more losses.

Eastern dropped to 3-20 and 0-6 in the OVC, while Jacksonville State improved to its best conference start in program history at 9-0.

“Hopefully our guys get tougher, because we’re just playing a really weak brand of baseball right now,” Eastern coach Jason Anderson said.

The series got off to a rough start as the Panthers had a ninth inning rally that came up short in a 6-4 loss.

Eastern was facing a four-run deficit going into the bottom of the ninth and put the Gamecocks closer to the test in the final frame.

The Panthers added on two runs to start the inning, and they had the game-winning run on first base with two outs with sophomore Frankie Perrone at the plate.

But with the Preseason All-OVC pitcher on the mound, Perrone went down on strikes to end the game and cut Eastern’s comeback bid short.

“We’re just making it too easy for teams to beat us,” Anderson said. “We have all the talent we need to do what we need in the conference, but we have to be tougher mentally.”

With missed opportunities on their mind from game one, the Panthers were motivated to get a win in game two.

Eastern sent redshirt Matt Wivinis to the mound to start game two of the series but pitching was not the problem in this one.

The Panthers set themselves back from the very first inning with their own mistakes.

Jacksonville State was able to score a run in the first and second inning because of Eastern’s errors.

Wivinis went on to allow six runs in his 6.2 innings pitched but just two of those were earned runs.

“Today we were bad defensively, and that let them get a lead to hammer it on us,” Anderson said.

Once Wivinis was replaced in the seventh inning, the Panther’s bullpen only added to the deficit by allowing four more runs.

“If we’re not ready to drive in runs with runners in scoring position, then we have to play great defense,” Anderson said. “Today we didn’t have that, we had bad defense.”

Eastern went go on to lose 10-3 after falling into too big of a hole in the early innings.

After disappointing losses in the first two games of the series, Anderson wanted his team to put everything they had into the series finale Saturday.

“It’s all guns blazing in game three, we’re going for it,” Anderson said.

With the Panthers fully loaded for the series finale, a victory was the only thing on their mind.

That mentality played a significant role in the early innings as senior Brendon Allen was locked in on the mound for Eastern.

Allen was in a pitching battle with the Gamecocks starter in the first five innings of the game.

Allen held Jacksonville State scoreless through five, while the Panthers offense added two runs in the fourth inning.

With a 2-0 lead heading into the sixth, everything was trending in the right direction for Eastern.

Allen walked the first two batters to lead off the sixth, and a groundout moved those runners to second and third for JSU.

Then back-to-back singles from the Gamecock’s offense brought in both runs to tie the game in the sixth.

Jacksonville State was not done there.

A wild pitch allowed Elliot McCummings to score from third and take a 3-2 lead over Eastern.

Jacksonville State went on to add an insurance run in the seventh inning with an RBI double down the right field line.

With the Panthers trailing by two in the late innings, senior Demetre Taylor did his best Superman act for Eastern in an attempt to bring his team back.

Taylor led off the bottom of the eighth with his first home run of the season over the right field fence.

While Taylor’s solo home run cut the deficit to one, it was the ninth inning that offered the biggest hope for Eastern.

Senior Jason Scholl led off the final frame with a hit-by-pitch, and freshman Dane Toppel followed with a walk of his own.

With runners on first and second for Eastern with no outs, sophomore Joseph Duncan moved the runners over with a groundout.

Eastern had its best chance of the series to come out with a win as there were runners on second and third with just one out.

But it was to no avail as the Gamecock’s closer struck out the next two batters to cut the Panther’s comeback bid short once again.

Missed opportunities proved to be the dagger for Eastern in this three-game sweep.

The Panthers left on a total of 26 runners on base in the series, and it proved to be the difference.

“At this point of the year, it doesn’t mean anything to just compete with these teams,” Anderson said. “The situation we’re in is that we have to go take a win from somebody, and right now we just aren’t able to do it.”

Eastern now turns its focus to a midweek clash on the road against Illinois State Tuesday.


Maher Kawash can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]