Remember when gas prices were under a dollar and the cost for a stamp was 22 cents? The year was 1987, which was also was the last time Murray State completed a sweep over APSU in baseball.
But the streak ended on Monday, March 31 as the Thoroughbreds defeated the Govs 8-5 at Raymond C. Hand, leaving Clarksville with three-straight wins over the home team for the first time in school history. Murray State (13-12, 7-5) won the series following Sunday’s victory, and the Govs continued to beat themselves as they fell victim to tying a season-high in errors.
APSU (10-17, 3-6) committed seven blunders in the contest, all coming from seven different players. Defensively, the Govs played solid prior to the series finale — committing just one error in the first two games combined — but closed out the three-game set with a nightmare showing.
“This team is so fragile right now,” APSU head coach Gary McClure said. “They’re so fragile mentally, and they have been all year. It’s really hard to understand what’s going on right now with these guys, but we gotta push forward and battle. As coaches, we can’t give in to what has happened. We gotta continue to drive these guys and push them, and try to help them through this.”
The first three and two-third innings of the game were very promising for the Govs as starter Caleb Powell did not allow a base runner, retiring 11 batters in order. The bats rewarded the freshman right-hander with three runs in the bottom of the third — one coming on a bases loaded walk, while Garrett Copeland and Ridge Smith lifted sacrifice flies to score one run a piece.
But with two outs in the fourth, Powell allowed a man to reach on a slow grounder to first base as the bag wasn’t covered in time, and the Thoroughbreds took advantage of it to plate a pair of runs.
“Caleb didn’t get started right away, and that’s his fault,” McClure said. “Had he, he would have retired 12 in a row. We just went up by three, all of the momentum is our way, but they still came back and got two runs out of it. You’ve got to stop the bleeding somewhere, and you’ve gotta have guys step up and do that.”
Powell pitched six innings — longest outing of the season — and while Murray State put up eight runs while he was on the mound, just four of the runs were earned. In the fifth, the Govs committed three errors, which turned the tables as the Thoroughbreds took a 5-3 advantage. Powell said he didn’t think it affected his rhythm, and just tried to limit as much as possible.
Murray State added another run in the sixth and two in the seventh, which ended Powell’s day. The bullpen trio of A.J. Gaura, Zach Walton, and Alex Belew allowed just one runner to reach base on a hit by pitch in the final three innings, which gave the offense at least a chance to tack away a bit.
Copeland doubled home a run in the bottom of the seventh, and Kevin Corey followed up with a RBI ground out in the eighth to cut the deficit to three runs. But the Govs went down in order in the ninth, leading to a quick huddle in left field following the game as McClure did not have much to say to his team.
APSU will have two road matchups during the week — at Western Kentucky on Tuesday, April 1 and at Indiana State on Wednesday, April 2 — before the next conference series begins at Tennessee Tech. The consensus from the players is it’s a good thing to have a pair of mid-week games to get more time on the field to turn things around.
“We haven’t won two mid-week games this year, so if we just get two wins on mid-week it’s a confidence booster,” Copeland said. “I think the attitude of the team will be more positive, and plus going into Tech I think it would be good to have two wins under our belt and some momentum especially playing away.”