By Clayton Ward
As Eastern students headed to Florida en masse for spring break, among them was the baseball team, which had little time for relaxation playing eight games in seven days at the Florida All-Star Baseball Challenge.The Colonels went 3-5 overall in the challenge. Losses ranged from seven-run blowouts to single-point heartbreaks. The tournament brings eastern to .500 on the season at 7-7-1.
Saturday, the team would struggle in the Challenge, opening with a 4-2 loss to Central Michigan and showing a prelude of the week to come.
Junior lefty Christian Friedrich (1-1) pitched six and two -thirds innings, giving up four runs on four hits and pitching five strikeouts. Two of the four runs given up were unearned. Sophomore Chris Hord relieved Friedrich finishing the game giving up one hit and no runs. Hord has yet to give up a run this season.
The third inning earned Eastern the lead with back-to-back doubles, and the fourth inning spread the Colonels lead to 2-0.
Going into the seventh inning the score was 2-1. The inning would ultimately be the Colonels’ downfall as they gave up three runs with no rebuttal over the final two innings of the game.
“We had plenty of opportunities,” said Head Coach Elvis Dominguez. “We just couldn’t manufacture enough runs against a very good team.”
Indiana-Purdue Fort Wayne
Eastern’s pitching was the key Sunday in the Sunshine State Baseball Challenge, fueled by sophomore right-hander Colby Brown.
Brown pitched for seven innings, giving up three hits and one run (unearned) against the IPFW Mastodons as Eastern strolled to victory 8-1.
Senior Joe Oliver was the offensive factor for the Colonels, hitting three of four and turning in a trifecta of RBIs.
The game got out of hand in Eastern’s favor in the top of the eighth as Eastern put out five runs, bridging the gap by seven.
Eastern’s next game facing Bucknell would also end 8-1, only the Colonels were on the losing side this time.
Eastern never looked like they had a chance in the first game of their double-header Monday. The Bison had taken a 4-1 lead by the bottom of the third inning.
Senior lefty Michael Mulholland gave up seven runs off eight hits in six and one-third innings for his first loss of the season.
The bottom of the seventh offered the crushing blow as Eastern gave up four more runs.
Eastern’s lopsided victories and losses didn’t end with Bucknell. Eastern finished the double-header against the University of Vermont Catamounts, picking up another big win 14-3.
The Colonel’s offense ended the contest with more runs (14) than hits (11), thanks in part to Vermont for walking seven Eastern batters.
Junior Chris Grider pitched his first win with five strikeouts, no runs and four hits for five innings. Hord replaced Grider for the sixth and seventh innings before senior McKenzie Willoughby finished the game.
Tuesday proved to be Eastern’s first true battle only to fall to Illinois State 3-2 in the 10th inning.
Sophomore Anthony Ottrando was the hero after hitting a sacrifice fly ball in the top of the ninth to drive in the tying run, making it 2-2.
An uncharacteristic performance from freshman Patrick Cooper was impactful as he had four strikeouts, giving up two runs on five hits over six innings. Clancy replaced Cooper for the seventh inning for two strikeouts and one hit only to have the pitchers rotated a second time, bringing in Willoughby for Cooper in the eighth.
Willoughby gave up a single, two walks and two wild pitches to the Redbirds, loading the bases with no outs.
With two outs and two strikes in the bottom of the 10th, the Redbirds hit a single, driving in the final run and handing Eastern a loss.
Back-to-back homeruns from juniors Dylan McMaine and Tyler Rehmel barely made a dent in the final score of 10-4 as Eastern fell to Akron Wednesday.
Eastern would jump to an early lead thanks to a two-run single by junior Matt Davis.
The Zips regained the lead in the top of the fifth only to lose it again as Eastern surged ahead with its final two runs thanks to McMaine and Rehmel.
Eastern’s home runs were all in vain as the Zips scored seven unanswered runs for the win.
In a tremendous late-game comeback, Illinois shocked the Colonels with a seven-run surge in the top of the eighth on Thursday for the win, 8-6.
Friedrich made his second start of the week on the mound, living up to his preseason All-American status. Pitching the first seven innings, he gave up one run and two hits, averaging less than two strikeouts per inning with a total of 12.
Friedrich would be replaced by Hord, who, after giving up a run to the Illini, pawned off a one-out, bases-loaded situation to Willoughby.
Willoughby snuck away with a ground out on the first batter, but Illinois eventually scored five runs total to close the door on Eastern.
Maryland Baltimore County
The Colonels would end their three-game losing streak against the Maryland Baltimore County Retrievers, leaving Florida with a win, 5-2.
Eastern split time between five pitchers but played a solid game on defense. Giving up two runs early in the contest, Eastern tied it up 2-2 in the top of the sixth and added the final three runs top of the eighth.