Baseball team set to wrap up road trip against Illinois


Lauren McQueen

Senior Jake Johansmeier pitches during the March 22 game against Robert Morris-Peoria at Coaches Stadium. The Panthers won 14-0.

Maher Kawash, Staff Reporter

The Eastern baseball team will end a five-game road trip Tuesday in Champaign to take on the Illinois.

The Panthers will match up against the Fighting Illini for the first game of a home-and-home series that is set between the two teams for this season.

Eastern is 5-22 on the season, and will take on an Illinois team that is 11-14.

While this game offers a tough matchup for the Panthers, the Illini are not the team they once were.

Illinois is coming off a historic season for its program as the team lost just ten games all season, and made it to the NCAA Super Regional Round.

With already four more losses than they had all of last season, the Fighting Illini seem much more vulnerable in 2016.

Attempting to jump on that opportunity is a Panther team that has continued its inconsistent season with 22 losses so far.

Eastern is coming off a conference series against Murray State, and allowed 40 runs in the first two games.

But after pulling out a 9-3 victory Sunday to end the series, the Panthers have turned their focus to the Fighting Illini.

In an attempt to top Illinois, the Panthers will send their senior starting pitcher Jake Johansmeier to the mound.

Johansmeier has been up and down all season long as he has allowed 16 runs in 23.2 innings pitched so far.

While he holds a 5.70 earned run average, he is responsible for two of the Panthers’ five wins.

Johansmeier is coming off his best performance of the season against Illinois State.

He pitched 7.2 innings of relief against the Redbirds, and struck out eight batters in shutout fashion to earn the win.

The Panthers have relied on him throughout his career, and a strong performance against Illinois would add to his storied career.

Johansmeier is fourth on the Eastern all-time list for innings pitched in his four-year career.

As he continues to move up in the Eastern record books, Johansmeier’s performance has improved lately.

In his last 13 innings pitched, he has earned two wins while striking out 12 batters, and allowing two runs on nine hits.

The Panthers will depend on him to continue that success against a powerful Illinois offense.

While Johansmeier tries to control Illinois on the mound, it is the Panthers’ offense that will need to provide clutch hitting.

Senior Demetre Taylor continues to lead Eastern’s offense with his performance at the plate in recent games.

Taylor went 6-for-13 against Murray State over the weekend, and finished with five RBIs.

Taylor also moved into seventh place all-time in EIU history with a total of 136 RBIs in his career so far.

Sophomore Cale Hennemann has also been a focal point in the Panther lineup so far this season.

Hennemann went 6-for-11 against the Racers with two doubles and five RBIs.

With those two leading Eastern’s offense and Johansmeier attempting to control the Illini on the mound, the Panthers will attempt to take down Illinois.

Although Eastern is coming off a win, history is not on its side for this matchup.

The Panthers trail Illinois in the all-time series 53-24, and the last meeting did not go so well.

In 2015, Illinois ran away with a 10-1 victory on their home field.

But with a less experienced Illini team this season, and Eastern coming off a win; the Panthers face an opportunity to turn their season around.

Action will begin Tuesday night at 6 p.m.

Following this single-game matchup, the Panthers welcome Tennessee Tech into Coaches Stadium for a three-game weekend series.


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