Panther baseball team cannot overcome Arkansas


File Photo

Eastern senior Jimmy Govern takes an at bat at Coaches Field in a game last season. Eastern is 0-3 this season.

Dillan Schorfheide, Assistant Sports Editor

The Eastern baseball team opened the season with likely the toughest opponent it will have all season, the University of Arkansas, and ended the weekend winless.

Eastern’s first game of the series was postponed Friday, but it was picked up as part of a doubleheader Saturday.

Both games Saturday ended in blowouts, courtesy of the Razorbacks’ hitting performances.

The first game Saturday ended with an Arkansas 15-7 victory, followed by a 12-3 victory.

But Sunday, with two big losses already, Eastern gave the Razorbacks a battle that ended on a walk-off base hit for Arkansas for a 3-2 victory.

“Despite not pulling off the upset, I am very happy with how we played overall,” said head coach Jason Anderson. “Starting the season against the No. 12 ranked team, in a doubleheader, on the road, in frigid conditions without having the benefit of practicing outside leading up to it is a huge challenge.”

Eastern knew the challenge Arkansas posed going into the weekend.

The Razorbacks were ranked 12th in the nation going into the season openers, and they were the runner-ups to last year’s college World Series.

One major factor Eastern focused on and changed in the offseason was its offense. Anderson said the offense did not perform the way the team thought it would last season, so they have gone to a ‘smaller’ style, with more focus on base running and not just hitting home runs.

And this weekend, the offense produced good numbers against the tough Arkansas opponent.

“We did excellent (hitting),” Anderson said. “Hitting with runners in scoring position is a big focus this year. We didn’t have too many empty outs in the form of pop-ups and strikeouts and really put ourselves in good positions to score.”

The Panthers drew eight total walks over the weekend, another thing Anderson wanted to see the team improve upon.

One thing Eastern did not have that Anderson wants to see more of is stolen bases.

In the Panthers’ highest-scoring game, the 15-7 loss, the team batted a total 11-37, or a .297 team batting average.

Hunter Morris and Jimmy Govern, two of the team’s staple players and best offensive performers over the weekend, lead Eastern with two hits apiece.

Overall, the team ended the weekend batting .255.

But it would be Matt Mackey who led Eastern in RBIs, with three, when he hit a pinch-hit, three-run home run in the top of the eighth inning, scoring Morris and Govern as well.

Then, capping off the weekend was the almost-upset Anderson mentioned.

Eastern only batted 7-33 overall (.212 average), but the pitching was the strong point in the game to keep the Panthers in it.

Spenser Dexter got the start for Eastern, only giving up one earned run and three walks, while also striking out two Razorbacks.

Four pitchers would come in relief for Eastern, only giving up two runs amongst them.

Josh Cooper came in for Dexter and gave up one earned run and two walks in two innings. Carson Haws and Alex Stevenson combined for two innings together; Haws gave up one walk, and Stevenson gave up one walk, one hit and got two strikeouts.

Blake Malatestinic was the unlucky Panther who gave up the walk off single to Arkansas’ Heston Kjerstad, who singled to right center to score Curtis Washington.

“Our pitching was much better than the scores suggest as we needed to get some pitchers to extended pitch counts,” Anderson said. “Our depth really came through by being able to shut their offense down on the third day.”

The team’s ERA for the weekend was 9.99, with 19 walks and 16 strikeouts.

Dillan Schorfheide can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]