Eastern sweeps Golden Lions

Vince Lovergine, Baseball Reporter

The Eastern baseball team is 14 games into the season and after its latest win over Arkansas Pine-Bluff Wednesday, the team is 8-6.

A six run fourth inning sparked the Panthers to a 9-2 victory. Gunner Smith put on a show with a five RBI performance and Ben Stephens commanded the mound, tossing six innings, allowing one earned run, striking out six for his first win of the year.

Smith now has 11 RBIs and only trails Trey Sweeney for team lead at 13.

This was Stephens’ second appearance on the hill with this game being his first start.

Stephens has a 1.35 ERA over six and two-thirds innings of work.

Matt Mackey provided two hits and an RBI for Eastern. Mackey opened the scoring in that big fourth inning with an RBI single that scored Sweeney.

Smith got his start by reaching on an error in centerfield, which scored Ryan Knernschield and Mackey on the play. Those runs were unearned.

A promising aspect is Eastern has struggled to get the bats going in recent games, but over the last two games, they exploded for 21 runs and they have allowed just six in two games.

Pine-Bluff’s Bryce Roesch was plagued by two errors, he allowed six runs before his exit after four and two-thirds innings, but only two of them were earned. Roesch struck out five.

Eastern head coach Jason Anderson said that his pitching staff and defense have been a big reason why the team is succeeding to this point. Anderson said the offense will come, and it has.

“I believe this team has pieces to keep having success,” he said. “It’s a long season of ups and downs but we can win games a lot of different ways. If we play good baseball, I like our chances.”

The Panthers hold a 3.66 ERA as a pitching staff.

Eastern was on base in some facet of the game quite often, as the team drew eight walks and recorded nine hits. Eight different hitters got one hit, including pinch hitters.

A nice boost was Sweeney who drew two walks and tallied a hit, and every time he reached base he scored.

Eastern remains on the road but turns back to conference play with Murry State this weekend for a three-game series.

The Panthers dropped the series against the Racers last season 2-1, but did win the opener 8-3.

Vince Lovergine can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]