Change can be good or bad in sports, but for the Eastern baseball team it has been prodigious.
On this day a year ago, the Panthers 6-32 overall and sat at the bottom of the Ohio Valley with just two conference wins.
Now, absolutely nothing is the same.
This Panthers team may have just had its eight-game winning streak snapped Wednesday evening, but that does not take away from the fact that they are in reaching distance of a playoff spot.
It could have even been extended if rain did not force the game to be called, as Eastern was in the midst of coming back from a seven-run deficit.
With 13 games to go, Eastern is already one win shy of tying its total conference wins from last season and their entire win total in 2016.
The mark of improvement is significant for the Panthers and it is something to build on considering the cloud of struggle that has hung over this program over the last five seasons.
With that being said, it is known that Eastern is not among the top tier of talent in the conference, but they have had no problem competing with those teams this season.
Coming into the year, not many people would have marked Eastern as an OVC contender considering they were voted to finish last ahead of the season.
Heading into the weekend, the Panthers are in a three-way tie for the eighth and final playoff spot.
But they are right in the meat of contention in the conference as they stand just two games out of fifth place.
What is so remarkable about this stretch of improvement for Eastern is how they still sit at the bottom of the conference statiscally.
It may speak more for the slow start the team had to the season than anything, but the Panthers are last in the OVC in team batting with a .256 team average.
It is more of the same in team pitching as their 7.86 team ERA also ranks dead last in the conference.
In conference games the Panthers have seen their numbers rise as they bat .277 against OVC opponents and are just a few ticks off from being in the middle of the pack.
The Panthers have a chance to prove all this now in the final stretch of games that begins specifically with Morehead State Friday evening.
It marks beginning of a three-game trip and that is where Eastern has struggled this season, but they do return home next weekend against Tennessee-Martin.
Maher Kawash can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]