■ By the Numbers:
Eastern Illinois is 11-26, 6-8 in the Ohio Valley; ranked 245th in the BoydsWorld.com RPI■ Panthers get back in OVC race with sweep of Racers (dennews.com)
It was no secret Eastern needed to win its road series against Murray State to still be in the thick of the Ohio Valley Conference Tournament hunt.■ Schmitz says pride at stake (dennews.com, APril 23)
The Panthers (11-26, 6-8 OVC) vaulted out of last place in the league by sweeping a shortened doubleheader series against Murray State 8-6 and 7-4, Sunday iun Murray, Ky.
Eastern head coach Jim Schmitz has seen it all this season in how his baseball team loses games. Blown saves, poor hitting, fielding gaffes that have been plaguing the Panthers the whole season.■ Mistake pitch leads to Illini baseball win (JG-TC.com)
Schmitz and his crew, though, are not throwing in the towel as they open play Ohio Valley Conference opponent Murray State beginning 1 p.m. Saturday at Murray, Ky.
This past week has been rough for Eastern (9-26, 4-8 OVC), as it has been on a five-game losing streak, the third losing streak five-games or longer this year.
The Panthers’ path to a win looked to be derailed after Illinois scored three runs in the third inning off relief pitcher Matt Miller, but EIU catcher Gerik Wallsten tied the game at 4-4 in the bottom of the sixth inning with a two-out RBI single to score Ryan Dineen.■ Pre-season comments on Eastern Illinois from CollegeBaseballToday:
A solo home run from third baseman Zach Borenstein–his seventh of the season–gave EIU a 5-4 lead through seven innings, but Illinois tied it again in the top of the ninth and won the game 6-5 in the 10th on a sacrifice fly by Craig Lutes.
The tying run in the ninth—an RBI single by pinch hitter Daniel Parker—also came on a mistake pitch. Parker whiffed on a fastball the pitch before his RBI single, and EIU coach Jim Schmitz wanted the same pitch on the 1-1 count. Instead EIU reliever Dillan Roark threw a changeup.
“We really lost it because of one pitch that was called, and I really can’t get over it,” Schmitz said. “The guy can’t hit a fastball, and (Roark) throws a changeup. It’s not a blown save. It’s a really dumb call to a really bad hitter when you throw him a changeup and he can’t touch a fastball. I don’t know what the mix-up was. I think it was a miscommunication, but this is game No. 35 and that shouldn’t happen.”
The Good News:
EIU got a lot of pub (from me at least) for their hot regular season that included wins over South Florida, Bethune-Cookman, Oklahoma and Illinois. As witnessed by their .362 average which was 2nd in the country, the Huskies can hit with anyone. Having Derbak, Borenstein (led all frosh with .506OB%) and part-time starter Jake Samuels (.345-5-28) come back will mean big numbers again. Ben Thoma (.277-8-23) is also a big stick that should emerge. Mueller and Recchia are a great one-two punch on the weekends and are expected to be June draftees of the MLB. Also, Scott Foley, the closer from ‘08, is back from injury, as is RHP Mike Hoekstra, who started six games as a frosh.
The Bad News:
(Insert grumble here) I’m not real happy with the Panthers right now. All season long I gave them props for some great early season wins and their dominating the OVC. Then came the post-season. That 0-2 swan dive in the OVC tourney cost them a return trip to the Regionals. A 10-8 finish should’ve been an indication that something wasn’t right. Saying goodbye to Brett Nommensen and his .525 average is painful. Replacing the sticks and gloves of SS Jordan Kreke and 2B Jordan Tokarz will be vital. Derbak was a great closer last year, but an injury will keep him from pitching in ‘10, so the bullpen will need new blood, which is never good..
■ Pie-eyed Tigers finish sweep (TigerExtra.com)
In the muddled Big 12, two victories make a huge difference. With its first series win of the season, Missouri (21-17, 6-8) jumped from 10th to seventh place in the conference standings, percentage points behind Kansas (6-8-1).■ And, still chuckling over MU's sweep of KSU, I leave you with this photo
It could mean more in the long run for a young squad. Just a week ago, MU Coach Tim Jamieson lamented the fact that his Tigers couldn’t find ways to win close games, once a Missouri trademark. But yesterday, a lot of little things added up to a big win — reminiscent of Jamieson-coached teams of the past.