After a disappointing opening impression in his first game as a Gov, freshman shortstop Logan Gray turned things around on Sunday, Feb. 16 to knot the score with the Iowa Hawkeyes thanks to a two RBI single in the sixth inning. A sacrifice fly by Ridge Smith the following inning would put APSU ahead, leading to a 7-4 victory.
The win gives the Govs a number in the win column after dropping both games on Saturday, Feb. 15, two games in which is took the majority of the newcomers to settle in.
Gray, who was hit-less in six at bats to go along with four errors in two games, said it was all in his head when on the field for the live collegiate baseball experience for the first time. But with a two-for-four game under his belt now, the confidence is there now for Gray to find his rhythm.
“I was real nervous and didn’t let myself relax,” Gray said. “It just tumbled down after that. It really got to the point where I didn’t want to make plays anymore, not really scared, but just intimidated. But today I bounced back.”
While one freshman took a day to adjust, it was another newcomer, Smith, who contributed right away. Smith was an astounding six for 10 during the weekend with four doubles and seven runs batted in, while playing third base, catching, and being designated hitter in each of the three games.
Iowa struck first with a two RBI single by Taylor Zeutenhorst in the opening frame, but the Govs answered back with a couple runs as well. Rolando Gautier brought home Chase Hamilton with a groundout, while Smith doubled to right field to score Alex Robles.
Senior Ryan Quick started the game for APSU, but was taken out after five innings to not factor into the decision. Caleb Powell came on in relief, striking out the first batter he faced, but gave up two runs, one coming on a pinch hit home run by Blake Hickman. It was Hickman’s second of the series after a grand slam in game one.
Tommy Hager backed up Powell to pitch one and a third innings of two hit ball while the offense took the lead. The game was then in Jared Carkuff’s hands, who received his first action in the closer role. With 2013 OVC Pitcher of the Year Tyler Rogers no longer waiting in the bullpen, Carkuff said he wanted to step into that role and has the mentality to do it.
The sophomore received two insurance runs in the eighth with a triple by Matt Wollenzin setting them up. Freshman Garrett Copeland doubled to score pinch runner Wesley Purcell, and Copeland came across as well on a wild pitch to increase the lead to three runs. Carkuff did not allow a hit in the final two innings, earning the first save of his career.
The victory gives APSU head coach Gary McClure win number 800 in his 27-year coaching career. But if you ask McClure about it, he’ll say it’s not about the milestone. It’s about avoiding a sweep to begin the season which will lead to many more wins in 2014.
“This is a big win,” McClure said. “It was my 800th, so be it. I’m certainly not going to say I’m not happy about that, but I’ll be more happy when I get 801 because it means we’ll win another one. So hopefully it will happen next game.”
The Govs will have a chance to get McClure to 801 on Tuesday, Feb. 18 when they host Southern Illinois at 3:30 p.m. McClure said he expects either Levi Primasing or Caleb Powell to start on the mound.
Photo: Logan Gray (Brittney Sparn/APSU Sports Information)