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The Murray State News

The Murray State News

The Murray State News

Baseball earns comeback win over Bellarmine

Redshirt-junior catcher Tanner Booth rounds third base after hitting a home run against Bellarmine. (Photo courtesy of Simon Elfrink/The News)

Simon Elfrink

Sports Editor

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Murray State baseball kicked off a five-game homestand with a single game against Bellarmine University, taking a 12-8 victory over the Knights. 

Bellarmine faced off against what seemed to be two totally different Murray State baseball teams, as a mid-game explosion from the Racers’ offense powered them to a commanding victory.

Bellarmine’s starter sophomore right-hander Matt Craven got off to a good start on the mound, keeping the Racers scoreless for his two innings pitched. Craven would own the mound longer than any pitcher during the game, except for senior righty Blake Wheeler who also pitched two innings for the Knights. Between the two teams, 16 pitchers planted off the rubber through nine innings of play. Head Coach Dan Skirka explained the coaching staff’s decision to rotate so many different arms on the mound against the Knights. 

“We had a lot of guys ready to go so we decided to just script it out and give everyone a chance to get in the game and compete,” Skirka said. “Six guys put up zeroes in their innings so [we’re] happy with them.”

Bellarmine got on the board early, loading the bases in the top of the second before a bases-clearing single from senior third baseman Josh Finerty gave the Knights an early 3-0 lead. A double from junior first baseman Jacob Mulcahy scored another run, making the score 4-0. 

The Knights added three more runs in the top of the fourth. Meanwhile, the Racers only managed to answer with a single run off an RBI single up the middle from redshirt junior designated hitter Alex Crump. Crump finished the day with three hits, affirming Head Coach Dan Skirka’s decision to incorporate him into the lineup despite Crump not taking a spot on the field defensively.

“It’s tough, him and Booth basically split our catching duties,” Skirka said. “Sometimes it’s matchups, sometimes it’s who’s going better. That’s why I DH’d him yesterday; I knew he was short on some at-bats because of that so I wanted to make sure he got his hitting in and didn’t have to do the catching.”

 The Racers still couldn’t contain the Knights’ hitting, which tallied yet another run in the top of the sixth, forcing Murray State’s hand with a 8-1 lead going into the bottom of the sixth. 

Murray State’s offense exploded in the bottom of the sixth, flipping the switch and turning the tides on the Knights. 

The Racers saw a window of opportunity when the first two batters of the sixth inning got hit by pitches, putting runners on first and second for redshirt junior third baseman Bryson Bloomer who drove one run in with a single to left field. A wild pitch allowed Bloomer and the runner ahead of him to advance to second and third, butting two more men in scoring positions for Crump. Crump delivered again with another RBI-single, lightening the lead to just 8-3. The Racers’ bats kept after the Knights’ pitcher, muscling another runner across home plate with a single from redshirt junior first baseman Wes Schad. A fielder’s choice brought in another run, making the score 8-5 with a runner on for senior center fielder Jake Slunder. Slunder put an exclamation mark on the inning with a home run in the left-field corner to close the deficit to a single run.

Bellarmine’s offense hit a wall in the seventh inning, but the defense looked to maintain the one-run lead after the stretch. However, the Racers had other ideas as senior second baseman Jordan Cozart led off the inning with a single up the middle. Senior outfielder Brock Anderson followed his classmate with a big fly to straightaway center, giving the Racers a 9-8 lead in dramatic fashion. Redshirt junior catcher Tanner Booth jumped at his opportunity to contribute, blasting a two-run shot to left field. 

In the bottom of the eighth, Cozart hit a sacrifice fly to center field to bring in another run, giving the Racers a 12-8 victory over Bellarmine. Skirka said the difference in his team’s offense throughout the game is a testament to the sport as a whole. 

“That’s baseball,” Skirka said. “You can’t run out the clock, you can’t kneel on the ball, so for our offense our goal is to score as many runs as possible within 27 outs. Obviously, we’d like to do it a little bit earlier, but at some point we’re going to break through and we’re confident in that.” 

Anderson’s homer in the seventh marked his 10th of the season and his 24th RBI. Cozart drove  in 31 runs and boasts a .340 average on the season. Crump’s two RBIs on the day pushed his total of runs batted in to seven. While he’s only appeared in 17 games for the Racers this season, Crump is one of the team’s most consistent hitters with a .345 batting average. 

The Racers will compete next against the SEMO Redhawks at 5 p.m. on Friday, April 5 at Johnny Reagan field for a three-game series.

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