Even though the regular season hasn’t reached the halfway point yet, it’s never too early to peek at the Ohio Valley Conference standings.
If the season ended today, the Govs (10-16, 3-5 OVC) would not be making the trip to Jackson, Tenn for the OVC Tournament. After a 6-4 defeat on Sunday, March 30 against Murray State, APSU falls to eighth place in the conference following a second consecutive series loss.
For a program who prides itself on being championship contenders each year, being near the bottom of the standings is an unpleasant sight.
“Unless our guys change their attitudes and approaches, we’re headed for disaster,” APSU head coach Gary McClure said. “That’s where we’re at. We don’t do what it takes to win, we’re selfish, and we don’t listen. We’ve gotta make adjustments.”
The frustrations began in the first inning as starter Levi Primasing hit the first batter of the game, which led to a four-run inning for Murray State. The Thoroughbreds (12-12, 6-5 OVC) took advantage of Primasing’s control issues to put runners on, and used a pair of two RBI singles to put the APSU pitching staff in a tough spot. With the left-hander only lasting two and two-thirds innings, it forced the bullpen to work more than expected.
But the four relievers that entered — Jake Corum, Jared Carkuff, Tommy Hager, and Ryan Quick — were solid overall to limit Murray State to two runs on seven hits, with Carkuff taking on a workload of four innings. It was a surprise to everyone seeing the closer enter the game in the fourth inning, but McClure said he felt like he was right guy to turn to in that situation, and the sophomore was effective to allow just one run on three hits.
The offense showed some fight in the third inning, cutting the deficit to 4-3. Logan Gray, who served as the designated hitter, hit a solo home run over the left field wall on the first pitch he saw, and knew it was gone as he quickly entered his slow trot around the bases. Gray had previously been in a slump — totaling just two hits since March 15 — but batting at the bottom of the lineup gives the freshman an opportunity see some good pitches to hit.
“I’m a much better hitter when I’m aggressive,” Gray said. “Teams know I’m taking first pitch fastball, so if I change that I’m going to get a lot of first pitch fastballs. If I’m aggressive then I can swing away more and get more hits like that.”
A double by Dre Gleason in the third frame would give APSU its third run, but they would not get on the board again until the seventh. After Cameron Finch shut the Govs down to just five hits in game one, Brock Downey followed his lead to go eight and two-thirds innings to earn his fifth win of the season.
Down 6-3, Garrett Copeland tacked on another run with a RBI double after the stretch. However, hitting with runners in scoring position is what hurt the Govs again. In the ninth, APSU put two men on with the tying run on first base, but could not mount a rally to drop a series to Murray State for the first time since 2009.
“We just didn’t get jobs done today,” Copeland said. “Some of it may have been just trying to do too much, but I think if we just tried to stay within ourselves it would all happen. All we needed was to get little things done and we would have been alright today I think.”
To avoid a sweep at the hands of the Thoroughbreds, the Govs and Murray State will conclude the three-game series on Monday, March 31 for a 2 p.m. start time at Raymond C. Hand Park.