Eastern to play Jacksonville State and Tennessee Tech over weekend

Sean Hastings, Sports Editor

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The Eastern softball team will have its toughest test this weekend on the road with a pair of doubleheaders.

The toughest one will be against Ohio Valley Conference leading Jacksonville State. The Gamecocks have lost just one game this season. Eastern will also play Tennessee Tech, which is 7-5 on the season.

The Panthers are 9-3 in OVC matchups this season. Eastern split last weekend’s doubleheader with Tennessee-Martin in a pair of matching 3-1 finals.

Eastern beat Fort Wayne in a non-conference matchup on Tuesday 1-0 at Williams Field.

The key for the Panthers this season has been playing consistent and mistake-free softball. And even when the slightest mistakes arise, it hurts Eastern. Last weekend, Tennessee-Martin got its first hit in the fifth inning against Michelle Rogers and it resulted in two runs because of two errors on the same play.

Eastern also lost out on a run because of a base running mistake that happened right before a home run. The Panthers were essentially mistake free in the first game, which they won.

And with 11-1 Jacksonville State ahead of them, each mistake can be costly. These four games will shape the OVC standings for the latter half of the season.

Junior Taylor Monahan is on an 11-game hit streak after reaching safely once in the Fort Wayne game and she leads the Panthers with a .372 batting average.

The runs did not come at an alarming rate against Fort Wayne, a team that has struggled pitching for most of the season, but lack of runs has not been a problem for Eastern this season.

However, Eastern has been without freshman Mia Davis who has been out with an injury. She did not play against Tennessee-Martin or Fort Wayne. She was hitting .361 before having to sit out.

Pitching-wise, junior Jessica Wireman and Rogers have been cruising to wins and have each other’s backs to finish off games if they cannot finish off the game.

The two have the most saves in the OVC.

As for Wireman, she has a 2.15 ERA with a 14-9 record in 133.1 innings pitched. She also has 139 strikeouts, which has her third in the conference behind Chelsea McManaway from Morehead State who has 209 and Haley Chambers-Book of Southern Illinois Edwardsville who has 214.

This will be a tough four games for Eastern on the road this weekend, with OVC rankings on the line, but after this the Panthers will be home for seven straight games at Williams Field.

Four of the seven games will be against OVC opponents. Eastern has doubleheader against IUPUI and one game against Indiana State.

The Panthers will host Murray State and Austin Peay in a pair of doubleheaders April 29 and 30.

Austin Peay has struggled at 2-10 and Murray State is just above .500 at 6-5.

But before jumping to the home stand, four important games lie ahead of the Eastern softball team.

Eastern plays Tennessee Tech Saturday and Jacksonville State Sunday.

Sean Hastings can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]