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The Murray State News

The Murray State News

The Murray State News

Baseball drops two of three games against SEMO

Redshirt junior infielder Jordan Holly celebrates a home run with senior outfielder Brock Anderson. (Photo courtesy of Racer Athletics)

Simon Elfrink

Sports Editor

[email protected]

The Murray State baseball team lost their first three-game series for the first time since March 7, against SEMO over Player’s Weekend. 

Head Coach Dan Skirka said the doubleheader on Friday, April 9, was not the Racers’ best effort of the season, but the way they came back the following day for the last game of the series was more like what he wanted to see from his team. 

“They’re good; they’re a good team,” Skirka said. “We didn’t play great on Friday, gave them some extra chances. They had a couple breaks go their way. That’s what happens sometimes. I’m proud of the guys coming back and getting game three.”

Game One

Murray State did not win the first game on Friday, April 9, but the Racers did start the weekend with a bang after senior second baseman Jordan Cozart hit a two-out solo home run to left field in the bottom of the first inning. 

Redshirt sophomore left-handed starting pitcher Shane Burns caught a taste of SEMO’s hitting in the top of the third after a leadoff double from sophomore outfielder Brett Graber paved the way for the Redhawks. The Redhawks scored a pair of runs in the inning off an RBI single from sophomore outfielder Jevon Mason, who was then driven in by junior infielder Tyler Wilber.

The Racers tied the game at two when senior left fielder Ryan Perkins hit a double down the right field line, scoring redshirt junior shortstop Jordan Holly who singled and stole second base earlier in the inning. 

The Redhawks pushed another runner across in the top of the fourth when Wilber hit an RBI double down the left-field line to give SEMO a 3-2 lead. 

The score remained 3-2 all the way until the bottom of the seventh, when Holly hit a sacrifice fly to tie the game at three. 

SEMO put up a crooked number in the top of the eighth inning on a walk, a pair of singles and a sacrifice groundout, giving the Redhawks a 5-3 lead in the top of the eighth. The Racers never responded, and by the end of the game, the scoreboard reflected an 8-3 Redhawks’ win. 

Burns went 5.1 innings on the mound, allowing three earned runs on six hits and three walks. Burns struck out four batters in game one, bringing his season strikeout total to 24 over 41 innings pitched.

“It’s tough going in Friday night,” Skirka said. “There’s a lot of pressure on that guy and he does a good job of going in and setting the tone for the weekend, throwing strikes and being aggressive. He pitched good enough to win, and unfortunately, we just lost to them.”

Game Two

The Redhawks rode game one’s momentum to a hot start in the second game of the series, putting  pressure on Murray State’s pitcher. Freshman right-hander Jack Wenninger, who has been putting together solid starts for the Racers all season, found himself on the wrong end of an offensive explosion after walking the bases loaded to start the game. The Redhawks took the slack Wenninger gave, and he came out of the game after only one out in the first inning. Despite the tough start for Wenninger, Skirka said he has no doubt the young rookie will turn things around and continue to do great things for the Racers on the rubber. 

“That happens,” Skirka said. “Jack’s been awesome for us this year, just phenomenal. For that to happen, [it was] just one of those fluke things.”

The rest of the Racers’ pitchers in game two looked to get past a six-run first inning from SEMO, but once the momentum got going for the Redhawks they never looked back, scoring 12 runs in the game. 

However, the Racers’ defense gave SEMO’s pitchers a scare, scoring eight runs throughout the game. Redshirt junior center fielder Jake Slunder went 3-5 with an RBI while senior right fielder Brock Anderson had a pair of hits and an RBI. Perkins also had a three-hit game, with his third hit of the day being a two-run home run. Redshirt sophomore Seth Gardner was the designated hitter for the Racers, going 2-5 from the plate and driving in a run off a solo homer. 

Game Three

The Racers came back with a new intensity on Saturday, April 10, to salvage the third game of the series on Senior Day. Graduate right-hander Sam Gardner made a start on the mound for the Racers, coming up with his first win of the season after going 6.2 innings on the mound. Gardner allowed six runs while on the bump, but only two of those were earned. Gardner allowed eight hits but struck out seven batters in the last game against SEMO. While Gardner’s role has primarily been out of the bullpen this season, Skirka was confident in allowing his “sixth-year senior” a start on the hill. 

“Sam got back on track last week against Tennessee Tech,” Skirka said. “Threw six scoreless innings in relief so he felt good going in today. We felt good starting him.” 

The Racers got off to an early 1-0 lead thanks to another solo homer from Cozart in the bottom of the first inning. SEMO tied the game an out later when redshirt sophomore catcher Wade Stauss led off the second inning with a solo shot of his own. Slunder decided he wanted in on the big fly action and corked one to center field in the bottom of the third, giving the Racers a 2-1 lead.

Seth Gardner stayed hot with a two-RBI single through the left side in the bottom of the fourth inning, pushing the lead to 4-1. 

The Redhawks battled back, and after the Racers sneaked another run across on an RBI double by redshirt junior third baseman Bryson Bloomer, the teams found themselves tied 5-5. 

Murray State’s offense found an opportunity to put up a crooked number in the sixth inning after getting the bases loaded on a pair of singles and a walk. Slunder picked up the first RBI of the inning before another runner scored on a passed ball. Anderson hit a sacrifice fly to score the third run of the inning, giving the Racers an 8-5 lead. 

The offense never stopped for the Racers, and by the final out of the game, Murray State maintained a commanding 11-6 lead over the Redhawks. After scoring 19 runs over the last two games, Skirka said he’s starting to see some of the consistent offense he’s been looking for all season. Still, Skirka is confident that his offense is capable of doing much more. 

“I’m going to get greedy and want more [from our offense,]” Skirka said. “We still kind of threw out some at-bats and chased some pitches when we don’t need to. But we are finding a little bit of a groove. We got some more guys going, [and] I’m pleased with where we’re going offensively.”

Murray State will look to take a series on the road against Belmont University in a three-game series on Saturday, April 17, and Sunday, April 18, in Nashville, Tennessee.

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