By Jason Finnell
On a windy, sunny Saturday afternoon at Turkey Hughes Field, Eastern shook off the chill in the air and dismantled the Bradley Braves 13-1, on the strength of six innings of two-hit baseball by junior pitcher Christian Friedrich.”He’s a special kid,” Head Coach Elvis Dominguez said. “You know what you’re gonna get all the time when he steps on the mound.”
Despite getting started by walking leadoff hitter Dan Brewer and going deep into the count with second-place hitter Grant Escue and junior Nick Mitidiero, Friedrich displayed skills that have led many to consider him a potential high pick in the Major League draft. After Brewer was caught trying to steal second, Escue struck out on a failed bunt attempt, while Mitidiero harmlessly grounded out.
In the bottom of the inning, junior Matt Davis walked and stole second. Two batters later, junior Dylan McMaine grounded to shortstop, but was safe on the play as the ball, thrown in the dirt, couldn’t be handled by the first baseman, enabling Davis to score from second and putting Eastern on the board 1-0.
The second inning would bring an additional two Colonel runs as freshman Jayson Langfels tripled down the right-field line, leading junior Tyler Rehmel to score. Langfels would later score on junior Aaron Barrows’ groundout to first, putting the home team up 3-0.
Freshman Ryan Faidley doubled to begin the fourth inning, and was later driven in by a Barrows single. Senior leadoff hitter Tyler Barnett followed with a two-run double to right center scoring Barrows and senior Joe Oliver, making it 6-0 Colonels.
In the bottom of the fifth, Eastern scored seven more runs to all but seal the win. Faidley again doubled, producing the first run. Rehmel then singled to right field, scoring two more runs. That was followed by a run-scoring single from Oliver. Changing pitchers, Bradley hoped its bad luck would change. Braves junior Bryan Porter came on to face Barrows, who greeted him with a three-run homer.
But what appeared to be a normal sixth inning ended rather dangerously for the Colonels. As both players called for the baseball, center fielder Barrows and right fielder Faidley collided in the gap with the latter holding on to the ball on a Mitidiero fly ball. Both players were OK and stayed in the game.
“The ball was in the gap and we couldn’t hear each another,” Faidley said. “Neither of us were injured to where we couldn’t finish the game up.”
Junior Eric Hash, who came on in relief of Friedrich to pitch the seventh, gave up the lone Bradley run on a sacrifice fly-by from Braves shortstop Rob Elliot. Freshmen Paul Duncan and Matt Fyffe came in and pitched the eighth and ninth innings respectively for the Colonels, neither giving up a run, keeping intact what would be the final score of 13-1 Eastern.
Game two the following day didn’t go as the Colonels would’ve liked.
Stymied all day by Braves pitcher Rob Scahill, Eastern could only muster up one hit by senior Clint Seymour, which did not come until the bottom of the sixth inning. Seymour hit a chopper up the middle, but would beat Elliot’s throw to first, breaking up the no-hitter.
Sophomore Colby Brown pitched four innings, giving up three runs on seven hits for the Colonels. Sophomore Chris Hord relieved Brown in the fifth and held Bradley scoreless. Eastern could not mount a comeback, falling in game two, 4-0.
The third and final game of the weekend would find Bradley on the scoreboard first as second- place hitter Escue, third-place hitter Brewer and cleanup hitter Lattrell all reached base via the walk. The pitch hit the no. 5 hitter, Tommy Fitzgerald, forcing in a run. The damage would end there, though, as catcher Oliver caught the Bradley base runner napping at second, picking him off to end the top half of the frame. Eastern would score two runs in the bottom of the inning to retake the lead on the Braves.
With Davis standing on second with a double, McMaine stepped to the plate and delivered another two-base hit down the right-field line. Three batters later, Rehmels singled off shortstop Elliott’s glove, scoring McMaine to put the Colonels on top 2-1 at the end of the first.
Eastern would again put two runs on the board in the second inning, but they would explode for their biggest run output of the game in the third.
With the bases loaded and no outs, Barrows singled into left, bringing home two runs. After a Barnett groundout, Davis came up and singled to left, scoring an additional two runs. McMaine and Faidley each added two RBIs for the Colonels, making the score 11-1 Eastern at the end of three.
Senior Michael Mulholland picked up his second win of the season, throwing four innings.
Senior McKenzie Willoughby came on and closed out the game for the Colonels in the seventh, giving Eastern their second victory of three on the weekend.
The team travels to Louisville Wednesday to take on the Cardinals, a participant in last year’s College World Series.