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The Murray State News

The Murray State News

The Murray State News

Baseball beats Arkansas State in fourth straight win

Senior first baseman Trey Woosley puts a charge into a ball against Arkansas State. (Photo courtesy of Dave Winder/Racer Athletics)

Simon Elfrink

Sports Editor

[email protected]

The Murray State baseball team extended its winning streak to four games in a 9-6 win against Arkansas State University on Wednesday, March 3. 

The Racers moved the game to Johnny Reagan Field after last week’s rains made Arkansas State’s home field unplayable. The Racers will now play the second game of the home-and-home series on Tuesday, March 23, at the Red Wolves’ home field.

The Racers took advantage of their home field by scoring in four of the nine innings of play, stringing together nine runs in what Head Coach Dan Skirka said was a total team win. 

The first run of the game crossed the plate in the top of the second inning when Red Wolves’ sophomore infielder Jake Gish put a ball in play to senior infielder David Huddleson at shortstop. Huddleson misplayed the ball, allowing graduate outfielder Drew Tipton to score. The run was unearned for the Racers’ starting pitcher, freshman right-hander Cade Vernon. 

The Racers’ offense responded in the second inning as senior outfielder Brock Anderson smacked a ball over the right fielder’s head for a leadoff double. Senior first baseman Trey Woosley followed up an out later with a double of his own, driving in the Racers’ first run. Woosley didn’t stay on the base path long, advancing to third on a balk before reaching home on a ground ball to shortstop off the bat of junior outfielder Brennan McCullough.

The score remained at 2-1 until the bottom of the third when the Racers found some insurance after getting a pair of men on early in the inning. Redshirt senior Jake Slunder led off with a walk and, eventually, found himself on third base after a single by senior outfielder Ryan Perkins. The first pitch of the next at-bat to last week’s OVC Player of the Week senior second baseman Jordan Cozart was hammered to left field, clearing the wall for Cozart’s third home run of the season.

Cozart, who has been on a tear since opening day, was slashing a line of .407 with four doubles, five RBIs and two home runs coming into the game. Skirka talked postgame about how important Cozart has been to what the Racers have been doing so far this season. 

“He’s just been what we expected and what we need from him,” Skirka said. “He’s a leader on and off the field, been doing a fantastic job and working hard. It’s always good to see that pay off.”

The Racers led by a four-run margin until the top of the fifth inning when the Racers’ pitcher, junior righty Nathaniel Gorczyca, hit back-to-back batters to put runners on first and second with one out. Another error cost the Racers a run, but by the end of the inning, the Red Wolves had only managed to make the score 5-2, in favor of the Racers. 

However, Arkansas State had a big fourth inning, leading off with a walk followed by an 0-2 double to center field by freshman catcher Brandon Hager. The Racers looked to senior right-hander Jake Jones to work them out of the jam. Jones struck out two of the next three batters, but walked one to load the bases. Jones then hit a batter to allow a run to cross for the Red Wolves. Arkansas State squeezed another run out of the inning after graduate first baseman Sky-Lar Culver hit an infield single, making the score 5-4. 

Murray State answered with three runs of their own. The first came from an RBI single from McCullough, followed by a two-RBI single from Huddleson to put the Racers up 8-4. 

Jones walked another batter with two outs in the top of the seventh.  After yet another error by the Racers, a double to left field off the bat of senior infielder and catcher Liam Kicks cut the lead  to just two runs. In the bottom of the seventh, the Racers  pushed the final score back to a three-run deficit on a passed ball. 

Despite the win, Skirka mentioned the mistakes made by the Racers’ defense made it hard for their pitching staff to recover after putting runners on for free with untimely walks and hit-by-pitches. 

The Racers played six different pitchers in the game: Vernon, Gorczyca, Jones, sophomore lefty Jordyn Naranjo, senior right-hander Alec Whaley and senior righty Connor Holden. 

“We got a lot of guys we’re confident in,” Skirka said. “We only got one game during the week this week, so with playing last Friday and Saturday, a lot of guys were rested and ready to go. Vernon got the start, did a great job, but he was on the pitch count. Then we went to Gorczyca and Jones and Noranjo and Whaley and Jordan. The bullpen, I thought, did a great job.” 

The Racers will play next in a three-game series against No. 1 ranked Arkansas in Fayetteville, Arkansas, from Friday, March 5, to Sunday, March 7.

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