By Todd Purvis/Sports editor
The Eastern baseball team has continued to roll throughout this season, as they have posted a record of 9-1 over the past two weeks. The Colonels traveled to Bradenton, Fla., over spring break where they played in the Florida All-Star Baseball Challenge. On the road trip, Eastern posted a record of 7-1, their lone loss coming from a 3-0 shutout by Rhode Island.”In the Rhode Island game, we hit balls right on the screws, but we hit it right at people; a foot here or a foot there and it would have been a different game,” coach Elvis Dominguez said. “We went down there this year and beat teams from the Atlantic 10 and teams from the MAC, which were really quality wins.”
Before hitting the road, the Colonels edged the Grizzles of Oakland University in two games by scores of 10-9 and 22-18 at Turkey Hughes Field.
The Colonels boosted their overall record to 12-2 on the season with a 7-2 victory over Vermont, which capped off a three-game winning streak.
“Our guys are playing with a little bit of purpose right now,” Dominguez said.
Eastern was led by freshman pitcher Chris Grider, who gave up only two hits and one earned run in six innings of work. Grider fanned 11 Vermont batters.
“We got a great pitching performance from Chris Grider,” Dominguez said.
The Colonels picked up the first lead of the game when Bryan Stevenson knocked in Will Whisenant on a RBI double that gave Eastern the 1-0 lead in the bottom of the second.
The Colonels added a couple more runs in the fifth when Stephen Carter singled, then stole second and scored off of a RBI single by Brett Bolger. Derrick Bussell then singled and he and Bolger advanced to second and third off of a Vermont error. Neil Sellers then picked up a sacrifice fly that brought in Bolger and gave the Colonels the 3-0 lead.
“Any time you give your starting pitcher a little cushion to work with, it really eases it up for him and lets him concentrate on one hitter at a time,” Dominguez said.
The Catamounts scored in the top of the sixth, then Eastern responded with a run of their own when Sellers picked up another RBI as he sent Bussell home on a fielder’s choice, that put Eastern ahead 4-1.
The Colonels picked up two more runs in the seventh as Stevenson picked up another RBI double that scored Whisenant. Bussell then walked and advanced to second, as Whisenant advanced to third on a wild pitch. Carter then laid down a squeeze bunt that scored Whisenant and gave Eastern the 6-1 lead.
In the eighth Vermont added another run, but the Colonels responded with one of their own when Sellers picked up a walk, stole second and third, then scored on a RBI single from Chris Clark, giving Eastern the 7-2 victory.
“We were solid defensively and we executed real well,” Dominguez said. “They had a good kid on the mound and whenever we got a chance, we found a way to put a run or two on the board. When you play eight games you are physically and mentally tired a little bit, but we found a way to get it done, and right now it seems to be falling right into place for us.”
The Colonels were led by Whisenant, who was four-of-five with two runs scored, while Stevenson was two-for-five with two doubles, two RBI’s and one run scored.
Eastern also picked up wins in their previous two games over Fairleigh Dickinson by a score of 14-1 and over Bowling Green by a score of 2-1.
“We were on a nine-game winning streak, and it hasn’t been the same guy one or two games in a row, it hasn’t been the same guy carrying us,” Dominguez said. “It’s just been one guy after the other that has really been able to do it at the plate offensively.”
The Colonels will return to action at 3 p.m. this Sunday when they travel to Bowling Green to take on the Hilltoppers of Western Kentucky. Eastern returns home Tuesday when they host Cedarville University at 2 p.m.