Bats lead baseball team to third straight win


Justin Brown

Senior Chase Thurston delivers a pitch to a Southern Illinois University-Carbondale batter Wednesday at Coaches Stadium. Thurston picked up his first win of the season over six innings of work for the Panthers.

Maher Kawash, Baseball Reporter

It took nearly three hours to find a winner but when all was said and done, the Eastern baseball team proved it is here to stay.

The Panthers hosted Southern Illinois-Carbondale in their second straight midweek matchup, and it marked the finish of a five-game home stand.

But in that home stand this young Eastern team finally found its identity.

It was another game where power led the way as the Panthers relied on their second grand slam in as many days to top the Salukis 10-7.

Not only does it build momentum for the team heading into more conference play, but it stands as Eastern’s third consecutive win.

“Everyone’s starting to get hot and the bats are swinging well so we just have to build off that momentum,” senior Chase Thurston said.

It nearly turned into a disaster though as Southern Illinois combined for six runs in three of the final four innings to make it a ballgame.

Junior Matt Albert made his presence known with that first inning grand slam. That made it back-to-back games with a home run for Albert and his eighth overall this season.

But what was significant for the rest of the team was building off that early momentum.

Eastern never let up the rest of the way, but that may be in credit to coach Jason Anderson’s small ball approach.

Throughout the game, the Panthers insisted on catching the defense off guard with multiple bunts that inched long enough to reach base or move runners over.

It was the perfect mix as that approach was getting runners on and across while the power hitters such as Albert and redshirt junior Frankie Perrone knocked some balls over the fence.

But what the Panthers also continue to struggle with is finding a complete game, and for the beginning half of this one it seemed as if they had found it.

Eastern’s starter Thurston had plenty of run support on the mound and was able to work comfortably because of it.

“My team came out and got four runs for me so that makes it a lot easier, and after that you just kind of try and pitch with a lead by not walking too many guys,” Thurston said.

Thurston worked smoothly through the first two innings before running into trouble in the second.

It was arguably one of the best outings for an Eastern pitcher this season as he was able to go deeper into the ballgame with a six-inning performance.

“You just have to take it one batter at a time, because if you start looking ahead into the future of the game then you start making mistakes,” Thurston said.

He gave up just two runs in that span with three walks as well, but it was enough to get his first win of the season.

The Panthers bullpen continues to be a focal point of any struggles to come the team’s way, and this time around they were just lucky enough to escape the Saluki rally.

Now Eastern moves forward onto conference play this weekend with the most momentum they have had all season.

The Panthers return to the road beginning Friday to face Tennessee Tech before playing another two single-game matchups next week.

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