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The Murray State News

The Murray State News

The Murray State News

Racers looking to bounce back against Belmont

When the Racers faced off against Belmont in 2019, senior left-fielder Ryan Perkins hit a pair of home runs in one game. (Photo courtesy of Racer Athletics)

Simon Elfrink

Sports Editor

[email protected]

After dropping a three-game series to SEMO over Players’ Weekend, Murray State baseball prepares for a three-game conference series against the Belmont Bruins on Saturday, April 17, and Sunday, April 18. 

The Racers’ record of 16-14 outweighs the Bruins’ 14-16, but not all wins hold equal weight in regards to a team’s quality. Belmont won a game against Lipscomb University and came within two runs of winning a second, while the Racers dropped both games to the Bisons for their season-opening series. However, Murray State won an OVC series against Jacksonville State University 2-1. Belmont salvaged only one game in the three-game series against the Gamecocks, contributing to their 7-8 conference record. The Racers currently sit at their preseason-predicted third place in the conference with a 7-5 record against OVC opponents. 

The Racers’ batting average is the third-lowest in the OVC at .257, while Belmont is fourth from the top with an average of .271. However, the Racers have outscored the Bruins this season 199 to 160. The Racers have relied heavily on their long ball, hitting an OVC-high 44 home runs in 2021, dwarfing Belmont’s 19 big flies. 

The Racers have relied heavily on their hitting this year, looking to fifth-year seniors like second baseman Jordan Cozart, who currently leads the OVC in home runs with 12 this season. Cozart is also a single run shy of tying for first place in the conference with total bases, having touched 82 this season. Cozart could be argued as the Racers’ most consistent hitter, having maintained a batting average of .300 or higher since March 13, barring a single game against Jacksonville State when he went 0-4, pulling his average down to .286. Cozart is currently hitting .322 and has 33 RBIs to his name, a number second only to Eastern Illinois University’s redshirt sophomore infielder Trey Sweeney’s RBI total of 44. Cozart is also just behind Sweeney atop the conference in slugging percentage. Sweeney is currently slugging .761, a few big swings ahead of Cozart who is in second place at .707.

Another big bat in the Racers’ lineup this season is senior outfielder Brock Anderson, also on the home run billboard for the OVC with nine this season. Anderson has driven in 26 runs for the Racers and sports a batting average of .263. 

Redshirt junior center fielder Jake Slunder has been an excellent leadoff hitter for the Racers this season, slashing .271 and driving in 19 runs for the Racers. Slunder has caused some havoc on the basepaths, stealing a conference-leading 14 bases on just 16 attempts this season. 

The Bruins have four players hitting over .300 so far this season, with sophomore outfielder John Behrends leading the team with an average of .384. Behrends has also knocked in 26 RBIs and sent five balls over the fences. Behrends boasts a .634 slugging percentage and a total of 41 hits this season. 

Junior infielder Logan Jarvis has also provided some big swings for the Bruins, driving in 30 runs so far in 2021. Jarvis sports a .378 batting average, a .496 on-base percentage and a .653 slugging percentage. 

Murray State’s redshirt sophomore left-hander Shane Burns is a likely starter for the series-opening game on Saturday. Burns’ ERA of 4.83 is a far cry from 2020’s 2.60, but he has put together some impressive starts for the Racers in 2021, such as a seven-inning start against EIU in which he allowed only a pair of runs on four hits, striking out five batters in the process.

The Bruins’ starter might be freshman lefty Andy Bean, who has quickly climbed to arguable ace status in a short time. Bean sports a 3-1 record and a 3.32 ERA and averages 8.19 strikeouts per contest. 

The first game of the series between Murray State and Belmont will begin at 1 p.m. on Saturday, April 17, in Nashville, Tennessee.

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