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EKU’s four homers haunt Govs in loss

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Just when everything was going in the advantage of Austin Peay, the visitors Eastern Kentucky left their mark offensively before returning home.

The Colonels unleashed four home runs in a 7-6 victory over the Govs at Raymond C. Hand Park on Sunday afternoon, with all seven runs coming courtesy of the long balls.

After the Govs (18-26, 10-11 OVC) scored two in the second inning, Eastern Kentucky (21-23, 10-11 OVC) opened up in the third frame. Bryan Soloman continued to swing a hot bat for the Colonels, adding on to his 8-for-15 weekend with a two-run homer to left-center to tie the game.

But really, Soloman shouldn’t have walked to the plate in the inning.

With one out in the third, The Govs had an opportunity to go to the bottom half with a double play ball to second base, but could not turn it as TJ Alas beat the throw. This led to Soloman getting a chance to do damage with a runner on, and set the tone for the Colonels early on.

“What frustrates me is we didn’t make the plays early in the game,” APSU head coach Gary McClure said. “We had a chance to turn some double plays and didn’t turn either of them. They got big hits after both of them, so I think the ballgame comes down to making plays. You don’t win close games if you don’t make the plays.”

The Govs’ offense answered much like they did the night before in the bottom of the third, taking a three-run lead. APSU totaled five hits, all of which being singles, and stayed aggressive on the base paths to complete a double steal. Senior P.J. Torres, who went 3-for-4, would drive in the tying run with a rip to left field, making it 5-2.

But the second-best team in the conference with homers didn’t shy away.

After APSU starter Alex Belew hit the first batter to begin the fourth, EKU’s Doug Teegarden and Luke Wurzelbacher hit back-to-back homers to knot the score at 5-5. Sean Hagen followed in the next inning with a two-run shot, which forced Belew make a slow, painful walk to the dugout with the loss.

“He (Belew) was just leaving pitches up middle of the plate, especially to their three and four guys,” Torres said. “That’s basically what it was. He was good for us all day; just a couple bad pitches haunted us.”

The Govs added a run to close the gap to one run as Ridge Smith led off the bottom half of the fifth with his second triple of the season, and Torres brought him home with a RBI single. Once Belew exited the game, relievers Caleb Powell and Ryan Quick held the Colonels to just one hit in the final four and two-thirds innings, giving the bats chances to tie or win it in both the eighth and ninth innings.

In the eighth, the Govs put two men on, but a strikeout would send the game to the ninth. Needing one run to enter extra innings, Rolando Gautier walked and was moved to third base with a sacrifice bunt by Alex Robles and sacrifice fly off the bat of Dre Gleason. APSU had a favorable match-up with Smith, who put good swings on the ball all day, against the EKU closer Anthony Bazzani. APSU walked off against Bazzani on Friday, but lightning wouldn’t strike twice as Smith went down swinging on an inside pitch with the tying run standing 90 feet away.

“I was sitting fastball and just adjust like you’re supposed to, and really I wasn’t trying to swing at the pitch,” Smith said. “I was actually trying to get out of the way, but I swung the bat.”

APSU still hasn’t managed to win three games in a row this season, and have lost the last six series finale games. Smith said this is the toughest one to swallow, but the Govs sit in sixth place alone in the standings. Up next on the schedule is a mid-week match-up at home against Western Kentucky on Wednesday for a 6 p.m. first pitch.

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