Baseball team improves in OVC opener


Justin Brown

Junior Logan Beaman (18) high-fives teammate Joseph Duncan during a game Saturday, March 4 at Tointon Family Stadium in Manhattan, Kan. The Panthers picked up their second win of the season Friday in a 7-5 victory over Jacksonville State.

Maher Kawash, Baseball Reporter

A 1-2 finish from the weekend and start to Ohio Valley Conference play may not seem impressive, but it was exactly what the Eastern baseball team needed.

The Panthers continued their extensive road trip this past weekend and their opponent, Jacksonville State, was a team that caused problems across the entire conference a year ago.

But there would be no sweeping Eastern this time around as the Panthers second win of the season came in the series opener against Jacksonville State Friday.

With an eight-game losing streak looming, the Panthers used the young arm of Freshman Alex Stevenson to find success.

Stevenson came into the series as the only Eastern pitcher with a win this season and with the help of the batting lineup, he earned his second.

Stevenson and the Panthers ran past Jacksonville State in game one by escaping with a 7-5 victory.

The lineup showed its growth from throughout the early part of this season as the Panthers were finally able to come through in two-out situations.

Eastern hit an impressive .429 from the plate in those situations while the pitching staff held Jacksonville State to a stagnant .125 average with two outs.

The eighth inning is what made the difference for Eastern as the team struck Jacksonville State for three runs to take regain the lead.

Joe Duncan and Nicholas McCormick provided nearly half of the Panthers’ offense on the day, earning three hits each in the win.

Game three offered a similar trend as the Panthers earned some runs late to make it a ballgame.

A year ago, the rebuilding Panthers may have been set out of track after a three-run home run put the opponent ahead 4-0 in the very first inning.

But what would later be a five-run deficit did not stop Eastern from coming back to force extras behind a power strike of their own.

Matt Albert had one solo homerun in the second inning, but his second solo shot in the sixth inning is what inched the Panthers within just one run from the Gamecocks in a 6-5 ballgame.

McCormick continued his hot swinging at the plate in the series with a leadoff double in the ninth as he would later score on an error to send the game to extra innings.

But despite a clear mark of improvement for the Panthers, Jacksonville State took advantage of runners on the corners in the 11th inning, and roped in the game-winning run with a single.

The game three extra-inning loss marks the second straight for Eastern as game two offered more of the same with a 6-3 loss.

The Panthers walk away from the series with just one win and a 2-16 record overall, but they still gain some momentum before returning home soon.

Eastern turns its momentum now to another midweek affair against Indiana State on the road, and it caps a lengthy road trip.

The Panthers return home this weekend to try and build off their up and down start to OVC play.

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