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The Murray State News

The Murray State News

The Murray State News

Baseball sweeps EKU

Redshirt junior center fielder Jake Slunder scores on a passed ball. (Photo by Simon Elfrink/The News)

Simon Elfrink

Sports Editor

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After a pair of OVC season series losses, Murray State came back to Johnny Reagan Field on Friday, April 23, and Saturday, April 24, to take on EKU over Alumni Weekend and Johnny Reagan Day. The Racers took the Colonels by storm, winning all three games to sweep the series. 

Game One

Freshman right-handed pitcher Jack Wenninger tossed the first pitch of the series at 1 p.m. on Friday, April 23. Wenninger threw six innings on the mound, allowing three runs on four hits and three walks. Wenninger struck out four batters on the mound and earned his fourth win of the season. 

Wenninger got to pitch with a lead behind him early on in the game. Redshirt junior third baseman Bryson Bloomer hit a single to score senior second baseman Jordan Cozart, giving the Racers a 1-0 lead in the first. A solo home run off the bat of redshirt freshman designated hitter Jacob Pennington pushed the Racers’ lead to 2-0 in the top of the second inning. 

Luck with the long ball spread to EKU’s lineup in the top of the third inning when freshman infielder Santiago Peralta hit a solo shot to lead off the inning. 

Zeroes crept across the scoreboard until the top of the sixth inning when EKU turned the tides with another big fly, a two-run blast off the bat of sophomore shortstop Logan Thomason. The Colonels led 3-2 going into the bottom of the sixth inning. 

Senior Ryan Perkins tied the game at three in the bottom of the sixth inning with a double to right-center field. Redshirt junior shortstop David Hudleson singled to score Perkins, giving the Racers a 4-3 lead. 

Bloomer contributed again in the seventh inning with an RBI single to push the lead to 5-3. Redshirt junior center fielder Jake Slunder punched one to right field in the bottom of the eighth to score another run, making the score 6-3. 

Redshirt junior right-hander Conner Holden came in to pitch in the top of the ninth to put the final nail in EKU’s coffin, earning his fifth save of the season. 

Game Two

Murray State opened game two with a short ceremony in honor of Coach Johnny Reagan, for whom the Racers’ baseball field is named after. In honor of Murray State baseball’s past legend, the Racers changed into throwback jerseys with “Breds” across the front and the number 36—the only retired number in Murray State baseball—on the back. The number 36 was portrayed on a flag in right field and on the chalk behind the plate as well. 

Freshman righty Cade Vernon went three innings on the hill in the second game on Johnny Reagan Day, giving up four hits and a three runs and striking out a single batter. The first run was unearned after junior outfielder Caleb Upshaw drove home a runner who reached on a throwing error early in the first inning. 

The Racers responded with a crooked number in the bottom of the first. Slunder led off with a single and made his way all the way to third on a wild pitch. Another wild pitch allowed Slunder to score during the same at-bat, tying the game 1-1. Perkins came through with two outs and two runners on with a two-RBI double down the right field line, giving the Racers a 3-1 lead. 

Murray State continued to tack runs on in the bottom of the second inning. Slunder’s speed and aggression on the basepaths aided him once again as he rushed home on a wild pitch all the way from second base. Cozart, despite surely being slighted that Slunder robbed him of an RBI, hit a solo homer to center field during the same at-bat, making the game 5-1. 

EKU’s junior second baseman Daniel Harris IV lightened the lead with an RBI single in the top of the third. Upshaw followed suit with an RBI double to cut the lead to 5-3. 

The Racers stayed on the offensive, chalking up another run on a sacrifice lineout from redshirt junior catcher Tanner Booth. A trio of runs scored later on in the inning on a series of errors and wild pitches gave the Racers a convincing 9-3 lead in the bottom of the third inning. 

The Racers tallied one more when senior right fielder Brock Anderson hit a no-doubter to right-center in the bottom of the fourth to make the Racers’ lead 10-3. 

The scoring completely stagnated until the top of the eighth, when Upshaw’s hot bat drove a solo homer over the left-center field wall. The Racers stopped the bleeding, but EKU found more life in the top of the ninth inning when Malik Pogue walked a pair of batters. Harris found a ball in the heart of the zone and jumped on it, punishing Pogue for his free baserunners with a three-run home run to left field. An RBI single from Peralta closed the gap to just two runs, but the Racers were finally able to stifle the upstart Colonels’ offense thanks to another save from Holden. This allowed the Racers to take a 10-8 victory in game two. 

Game Three

Both teams stepped onto a soggy Johnny Reagan Field on Saturday, April 24, for the last game of the series. In an attempt to let the day’s rain dry up, the game was set for 5:30 p.m., but a heavy mist remained throughout the majority of the game and made it difficult for the moisture to go anywhere. Still, Murray State scraped the field into playing condition and the Racers took the field for the last game of the weekend. 

Graduate right-hander Sam Gardner got the start on the hill in game three. Gardner’s last start was the historical nine-inning shutout over Belmont, and Racer fans who braved the wind and rain were eager to see what he would bring to the rubber in the final game of the series. Gardner did not disappoint and went seven innings on the mound, allowing only two runs on six hits and a pair of walks. Gardner brought some of his best pitching of the season with him and fanned nine batters on Saturday. 

Bloomer continued to put the ball in play when the Racers needed him to in the first inning, driving in another run with a single to left field. 

The Racers took advantage of four errors committed by EKU’s defense throughout the game. The first error came on a ground ball to third base off the bat of Cozart, who then reached first base and got another RBI out of the deal to make the score 2-0. 

Slunder hit an infield single that amounted to an RBI in the fourth inning before the Colonels finally found the scoreboard with a solo home run in the top of the fifth from sophomore infielder Charlie Ludwick. 

Murray State found an opportunity to push the lead back to three when Pennington sent a ball tailing away from both outfielders in the right-center gap for a two-out triple. Crump stepped up to the plate and smacked a ball into shallow left-center field. The ball hit a patch of wet grass and died in the outfield, and Crump saw his chance to stretch a single into a double. However, the Colonels’ center recovered the ball and threw him out on his way to second, ending the inning. Still, Crump managed to score Pennington from third to give the Racers a 4-1 lead. 

Freshman catcher Will King hit an RBI single to right center to score a run in the top of the seventh inning to close the Racers’ lead to just two runs.

Murray State’s offense came back with a vengeance in the bottom of the seventh as Perkins hit a line drive to left field with two men on base. The left fielder seemed to have a read on the ball, but at the last second he lost his footing to the wet grass and failed to come up with the catch. Perkins made a triple out of the encounter and two more runs scored. Redshirt junior first baseman Trey Woosley drove Perkins in the next at-bat with a ground ball to second base, making the score 7-2.

The Colonels tried to make a late-game rally after getting a run across in the top of the eighth inning, but some key pitching from the Racers’ bullpen kept EKU in check and ended the game with a 7-3 win. 

With the first three-game sweep of the season, Murray State improved to 21-16 on the season and 11-4 in conference play. After picking up a loss against Southern Illinois University on Tuesday, April 27, Murray State will now gear up to go head-to-head with Morehead State for a four-game OVC series from Friday, April 30 to Sunday, May 2.  

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