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The Murray State News

The Murray State News

Slunder’s three homers help Racers salvage one in four against Morehead State

Redshirt junior center fielder Jake Slunder hit three home runs in the third game against Morehead State. (Photo courtesy of Tennessee Tech Sports Information)

Simon Elfrink

Sports Editor

[email protected]

Murray State baseball was hot and cold in a four-game series against Morehead State. In three of the four games, Morehead State’s offense was able to overpower the Racers, but an explosion at the plate from redshirt junior center fielder Jake Slunder helped Murray State capture a game three victory.

Game One

The Racers put freshman right-hander Jack Wenninger on the mound to start game one of the series on Friday, April 30. Wenninger has been a big help for the Racers, posting a 4-3 record coming into the game. However, the Morehead State offense exploited him as early as the first inning. AfterWenninger walked the second batter of the game, redshirt senior infielder Stephen Hill stepped up to the plate and hit a two-run home run. 

Wenninger made it through the rest of the inning unscathed, and when redshirt freshman first baseman Jacob Pennington hit a solo shot in the top of the second inning, it looked like the Racers would be able to battle back against the Golden Eagles. The Racers even tied the game at two in the top of the third when senior outfielder Brock Anderson hit an RBI double to right field. 

The Golden Eagles tore things open in the bottom of the third inning, leading the bases on a pair of singles and a walk. From there, one massive swing from senior catcher Jack Gardner was all it took to send a ball flying over the wall to clear the bases and make the score 6-2. 

The Racers made a pitching change, giving the ball to freshman righty Cade Vernon. The Golden Eagles kept after Vernon and later redshirt freshman left-hander Jordyn Naranjo, and redshirt freshman righty Malik Pogue also suffered the wrath of the Golden Eagles’ hitting. The Golden Eagles didn’t stop until they had scored a staggering 17 runs. The only other run the Racers could score was from a big fly off the bat of redshirt junior catcher Alex Crump for his third homer of the season. 

Game Two

Scoring slowed down for both teams in the second game of the series on Friday, April 30. Sophomore lefty Shane Burns took the mound and went four innings, holding the Golden Eagles to a single run on just three hits. Burns also struck out five batters on Saturday, May 1. 

However, the Racers were unable to give Burns much run support through the first four innings. Redshirt junior third baseman Bryson Bloomer, who has been on a hot streak recently, got around one and homered to center field in the top of the second. Morehead State manufactured runs with some small ball, getting one across in the first on a sacrifice ground ball to the pitcher and another run in the fifth on a fielder’s choice. 

Redshirt junior center fielder Jake Slunder led off the top of the sixth inning by tying the game with a home run. The Racers rode his momentum and found a huge opportunity when senior second baseman Jordan Cozart bunted his way on and Anderson moved him all the way to third with a double to left field. Pennington walked, but the Racers lost their chance with a two-out groundout to second base, snuffing out the rally. 

Yet another sacrifice ball in play brought home another run for Morehead State, giving the Golden Eagles a 3-2 lead in the bottom of the sixth. They struck again in the bottom of the seventh when Gardner hit an RBI-double to right-center field, making it 4-2. 

Anderson kept swinging a hot bat and hit a home run to right field for his 12th of the season. 

Morehead State’s freshman outfielder Jacob Ferry answered with a big fly of his own in the bottom of the eighth, giving the Golden Eagles a 5-3 lead which they maintained until the final out of the game. 

Game Three

Graduate righty Sam Gardner suited up for the start on Saturday, May 1, as the Racers looked to climb out of a 2-0 hole in the series. Gardner’s pitching has been top notch recently, helping him earn OVC Pitcher of the Week on Monday, April 19. Gardner was ready to go the distance in game three, and the Racers’ offense found a way to flip the switch and turn the tides on the Golden Eagles. 

The Racers got ahead early when Anderson hit a base piece to right-center field, scoring a run. Slunder hit another home run in the bottom of the second inning, this time a three-run blast to right-center, making the score 4-0. 

Ferry homered for the Golden Eagles, closing the gap to three runs, but Bloomer outdid him with a two-run shot to center field, pushing the lead to five runs. The fence couldn’t contain redshirt sophomore Brennan McCullough, who went yard for two RBIs and made the score 8-1. 

The Golden Eagles tacked on two runs in the bottom of the fifth, but the Racers’ offensive display was only the beginning. Slunder’s next hit left the field for his third home run of the weekend, and Bloomer made sure his name kept appearing on the scoresheet with an RBI double to left field. 

The Racers added their last two runs of the game in the top of the seventh when McCullough hit an 0-2 long ball to right field. Slunder’s career day reached a new height with yet another bomb, a two-run shot over the right-center wall. The Racers walked away with a 13-3 lead in game three.

Gardner went seven innings on the mound, allowing all three earned runs on six hits and five strikeouts, securing the win and improving to 4-4 on the season. 

Game Four

With an opportunity to tie the series up on Sunday, May 2, the Racers were dominated by the Morehead State offense once again. 

Things were looking bright for the Racers as they chalked a tally mark on the scoreboard in the first inning after Anderson hit a single to left field, scoring Slunder. 

The Golden Eagles responded in the bottom of the second inning when senior Jon Burghardt hit a three-run home run to right-center field. Ferry followed up a couple at-bats later with another big fly, padding his stats on what was already a fantastic weekend. 

Anderson kept the Racers in the game offensively with a triple down the right-field line, allowing Slunder to score yet again. 

A six-run effort in the bottom of the fourth, featuring another blast from Burghardt, pushed the Golden Eagles’ lead to 11-2. 

The Racers scraped a rally together as the game went on, getting a run across on a wild pitch before an RBI single from Hawthorne closed the lead to 11-4. Anderson went yard in the top of the ninth for another pair of runs, but the offense was unable to ride the stellar day. The Racers lost on an 11-4 final score. 

Murray State baseball will have a short turnaround before facing off against Belmont University at 4 p.m. for a single game on Wednesday, May 5, at Johnny Reagan Field.

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