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The student news site of Eastern Illinois University in Charleston, Illinois.

The Daily Eastern News

The student news site of Eastern Illinois University in Charleston, Illinois.

The Daily Eastern News

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EIU baseball prepares for rematch against Arkansas State

Arkansas State and Eastern will face each other in a rematch of last year over the weekend. (File)

The baseball team at Arkansas State University has not made the Sun Belt Conference tournament since 2018. In fact, it has been a full decade since the program has had a winning season in the SBC. Their last season above 0.500 in conference play was 2014, when the team went 18–12. 

For context, redshirt junior Austen Jaslove, who leads Arkansas State in home runs, was still in seventh grade during the 2014 season.  

In 2023, Arkansas State baseball crossed paths with Eastern, the soon-to-be Ohio Valley Conference champions. The Panthers would sweep the Red Wolves in Jonesboro, Arkansas. 

The two games took place on March 10 and 11, 2023. They were tough losses for the Red Wolves, as Eastern put up over 10 runs in each game, the first game ending 11-8 and the second game ending 12-6.   

Arkansas State was 7-5 before the series with Eastern, their best record through 12 games since the 2019 season. Arkansas State finished the season 20-31 (0.392 win percentage). 

Now, nearly one year later, Arkansas State will have a chance for redemption against the Panthers in a three-game series in Jonesboro. The series will start on March 9 and end on March 10.  

Arkansas State started the 2024 season with a 9-4 record, sitting sixth in the Sun Belt Conference. This has been the best start for the Red Wolves since 2013. 

Arkansas State head coach Tommy Raffo said he is happy with his team’s success, but he wants the squad to keep getting better. 

“This team had a core group that returned. We added 19 players to that group,” Raffo said. “We’re just trying to have a great mix and add a great balance to a club that can compete on the weekends. Right now, we’ve done okay, but we just want to grow and get better.” 

The Panthers have started the 2024 season off with a 1-9 record, sitting last in the OVC. This is the worst start for an Eastern team in seven years. 

Despite the rough start, Raffo and his team still gave Eastern respect. 

“We know how Eastern is coached; we know how well they play the game,” Raffo said. “They’ve got some really good players returning. As far as them getting going, sometimes starts are not indicative of your team or how it will be. By all means, this is a 56-game season and we are both trying to figure things out.” 

Eastern’s head coach Jason Anderson also said that his team will be playing better later in the season. 

He went noted that his team is mostly composed of freshmen and transfers. He says these new faces have not quite adjusted to Division I baseball yet.  

“We’re just going through a rough patch, and it’s right up front,” Anderson said. “But when that happens, it sometimes pays off for you in the end.”   

As for a fix to this rough patch, coach Anderson believes he has an answer.

“What this team needs is some momentum to get things going,” Anderson said. “We need some guys to start winning some individual battles. They have the talent, just not the experience.” 

A win or two against Arkansas State could be what the Panthers need to get the ball rolling. Likewise, a Red Wolves win would further prove Arkansas State baseball’s losing ways are behind them.  

Just like last season, this is a crossroads series for both teams. The question is who will come out on top this time around. 

 

Aidan Cusack can be reached at 581-2812 or at [email protected].

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About the Contributor
Rob Le Cates
Rob Le Cates, Editor-in-Chief
Rob Le Cates is a junior journalism major. He previously served as summer editor-in-chief, photo editor and assistant photo editor at The News.

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