Eastern hopes to carry momentum against EKU

Adam Shay, Baseball Reporter

Coming off a 17-13 win against Illinois State, the Eastern baseball team looks to move up the OVC rankings in a weekend conference series against Eastern Kentucky.

The Panthers have been improving as the season goes on in conference play, winning their last two games against Belmont. Moving up two spots, the Panthers have improved from being last in conference play to ninth with a 4-11 record (13-22 overall).

“This series is huge not only for momentum, but for our season in general,” senior closer Michael Starcevich said. “The rest of the OVC games are very important to ensure a spot in the OVC tournament.”

Eastern Kentucky is currently fifth in the OVC with a 9-6 record in conference play and has been playing well against conference teams. Over their last six conference games, against Southern Illinois-Edwardsville and Austin Peay, the Colonels have won four.

After Eastern’s offensive eruption against Illinois State, putting up 17 runs and a nine-run inning, the team is looking to carry that momentum against the Colonels.

“Wednesday’s win was great and it could be a turning point offensively for us if we take the same approach we had individually this weekend,” junior second baseman Jimmy Govern said.

The Colonels’ successful OVC play can be attributed to their high-powered batting as they rank third in team batting average. With an average of .290, it is no surprise the team has produced some of the highest totals in the OVC: 389 hits, 244 RBI’s and 280 runs.

“(Eastern Kentucky) has traditionally been a solid hitting club, so I’d say the pitching staff overall has to limit walks and avoid big innings,” Starcevich said.

Also, what has helped the Colonels’ offensive efficiency is how well the team runs the bases. Eastern sophomore catcher Ryan Knernschield threw out a Redbird on Wednesday and will have his hands full with the Colonels sitting atop the OVC with 64 stolen bases.

When it comes to pitching for both teams, the Panthers and Colonels are nearly identical in the OVC rankings. Eastern has the slight edge at sixth with a team ERA of 6.07, whereas Eastern Kentucky’s ERA is 6.59, placing them seventh.

“As a team, we’re very confident in our pitching,” Govern said. “They’ve given us a chance to win virtually every game this year, but now it’s time for the offense to step up. We feel really good about where we’re at after the adjustments made prior to yesterday’s game.”

If the Panthers can put together a solid outing from their pitching staff, as well as limiting their errors, the team believes they will win against the Colonels. With those components coming together, it’s all up to the hitting to put it all together.

“If our hitters can produce runs like they did (against Illinois State), we have a great chance of success going into this series,” Starcevich said.

The first game of the series is Friday at 6 p.m.

Adam Shay can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]