Six runs should be enough to win a typical baseball game. But for the Govs this season, they have just one win in which they scored six or fewer runs.
Eastern Illinois defeated APSU 7-6 on Friday, March 14 at Raymond C. Hand Park in the first conference match-up for the Govs. Leading by three runs going into the seventh inning, APSU had control of the game behind another solid outing for Alex Robles. Robles allowed just two hits and one run up until that point, but the Panthers struck with three in the seventh to tie the score at 4-4.
After EIU tacked on another run off setup man Jake Corum, Chase Hamilton sparked the Govs with a triple, and was brought home on a short sacrifice fly by Rolando Gautier. But EIU’s Demetre Taylor continued to swing a hot bat to record his second double in three inning, this one giving the Panthers a 6-5 advantage. An important insurance run was added off A.J. Gaura, who took the loss, sending the game to the bottom of the ninth.
It’s not like the Govs didn’t have their chances throughout the game, and in the final half inning. Down two runs, senior Matt Wollenzin gave APSU some life with a solo home run to right field, his first of the season. The next batter, Garrett Copeland, walked to be declared the tying run. Hamilton followed, and with a 3-2 count, struck out looking to end the game, snapping a consecutive 11-game Ohio Valley Conference winning streak dating back to last year.
Despite leaving 11 runners on base, head coach Gary McClure said the game was lost in the field as the Govs committed two errors, and also falls on the pitchers’ shoulders.
“I think the ball game was lost defensively, I think the ball game was lost mentally, and I think it was lost on the mound. And it was really a mental mistake on the mound,” McClure said. “We’re just beating ourselves and that’s the frustrating part.”
Both teams broke even 1-1 after the first inning, and in the bottom of the second, Robles helped himself with the bat. With the bases loaded, the freshman ripped a triple to right center to clear the bases, and went on to pitch four scoreless innings on the hill.
In the seventh with two outs on EIU, a pitch by Robles hit the handle of Frankie Perrone’s bat with the ball landing in play. The Govs fielded the ball and the entire team returned to the dug out. However, the home plate umpire Jackie Cayson ruled that the ball hit Perrone in the hand, and the inning continued with two runners on. This became a key turning point in the game as instead of no damage done, the Panthers capitalized to score three runs and regain momentum.
Robles said he thought it hit the bat, and McClure was also confused by the call.
“It was a tough call. I’ve never seen a ball hit skin and go all the way out to the pitcher’s mound,” McClure said. “But we still had two outs with guys on first and second up three runs. We just needed an out and just couldn’t make the pitch.”
Hamilton’s 2-for-5 day and Robles’ three RBI led the Govs offensively. The final line on Robles was seven innings, six hits, four runs with three being earned, two walks, and three strikeouts. But Hamilton’s statement said it best when it comes to individual statistics.
“I don’t care if I go 0-for-5,” Hamilton said. “I just want to win. Especially when it comes in conference.”
Due to a schedule change with rain in the forecast Sunday, the Govs and Panthers will play a doubleheader on Saturday, March 15 with the first game beginning at 1 p.m.