Baseball team set to host Belmont

Sophomore+Ben+Hughes+fires+a+pitch+Wednesday+afternoon+against+Illinois+College.+Hughes+pitched+four+innings+and+allowed+one+run+in+the+Panthers%27+7-6+win.

Sean Hastings

Sophomore Ben Hughes fires a pitch Wednesday afternoon against Illinois College. Hughes pitched four innings and allowed one run in the Panthers' 7-6 win.

Jonathon Montgomery, Staff Reporter

An extra-inning win Wednesday against Illinois College snapped the Eastern baseball team’s losing streak and the Panthers resume conference play this weekend at home.

The now 6-31 Panthers will take on the 20-16 Belmont Bruins in a three-game stint at Coaches Stadium.

With the Panthers ending an overall losing streak of nine games, they look to build momentum and earn a few extra wins in the Ohio Valley Conference. The Panthers are currently 1-14 in the conference with their last win coming against Murray State April 3.

As for Belmont, they come into the weekend series owning a 9-6 conference record. This includes a series sweep of Tennessee-Martin during the first week of April in which the Bruins tallied 40 runs in the three-game series.

However, Belmont is currently riding a three-game losing streak heading into the series in Charleston. Two of those three losses were one-run, ten-inning affairs against fellow OVC member Austin Peay and Western Kentucky.

The Panthers may be without some players this weekend due to several injuries. Junior Michael McCormick is dealing with an injury and red-shirt senior Matt Wivinis will not be available to pitch until Sunday.

Senior Brendon Allen is the Panthers’ starter for game one of the series against the Bruins on Friday.

Allen’s last start came against the Redhawks of Southeast Missouri where he allowed nine earned runs on eight hits while walking four batters in five innings of work.

On the season, the right-handed pitcher has accumulated one win to go along with four losses and a 7.65 ERA with eight starts on the mound.

Game two’s starter for Eastern is junior Chase Thurston.

Thurston comes into the series winless with four losses and two starts on the mound under his belt. During his last start against Illinois, Thurston went five innings, allowing three earned runs on seven hits.

Wivinis is scheduled to take the mound for the Panthers on Sunday.

In his last start against Tennessee Tech, Wivinis went seven innings and allowed three earned runs with two walks, but managed to strike out eight Golden Eagle hitters. On the season, Wivinis is first on the team with 46 strikeouts and one win in relief against Illinois College to go along with seven losses in 12 appearances on the mound this season.

Eastern’s bats are looking to step up and silence the pitching prowess of the Bruins, who come into the series ranking third in the conference in batters struck out. The hitting duo of sophomores Joseph Duncan and Cale Hennemann are seemingly the main threats for Belmont if the Bruins intend to raise their current strikeout total by the end of the series.

Overall, Duncan has collected 47 hits and owns a .311 batting average this season. After Wednesday’s game, the centerfielder has notched 10 base hits in his last five games.

Hennemann is still atop the list among Panther starters with a .331 batting average for the season. The sophomore is also tied with Duncan with 47 hits and leads the squad with 11 doubles and 27 RBIs, which includes the walk-off single against Illinois College Wednesday.

For a vital contribution among the hitters, Eastern coach Jason Anderson said senior Mitch Gasbarro and red-shirt senior Demetre Taylor are the key Panthers on the prowl this weekend.

“They have been doing a good job of setting the table and getting runners in scoring position,” Anderson said.

Gasbarro and Taylor both have tallied 33 hits and their RBI totals are 14 and 16 RBIs, respectively.

With only three available players on the bench for this series, Anderson said he intends to utilize those players strategically for every game. Senior Matt Dunavant has been one of those key players off the bench for Anderson.

“He will come up in every game during an RBI situation,” Anderson said. “He has done very well for us in that role and he will continue to do it.”

In his 28 games played this season, Dunavant has driven in 12 runs on 11 hits with two home runs.

The start time for game one on Friday is scheduled for 3 p.m. Games two and three on Saturday and Sunday both begin at 1 p.m.

After this three-game set, the Panthers continue their home stand with two non-conference games against Saint Louis on April 26 and Indiana State on April 27.

 

Jonathon Montgomery can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]

Sophomore Ben Hughes fires a pitch Wednesday afternoon against Illinois College. Hughes pitched four innings and allowed one run in the Panthers' 7-6 win.
Sean Hastings
Sophomore Ben Hughes fires a pitch Wednesday afternoon against Illinois College. Hughes pitched four innings and allowed one run in the Panthers’ 7-6 win.