This archived article was written by: Mike Gingell
Never say die to this team. The USU Eastern men’s baseball do not give up and that was proven as three of their last four victories have come when the team was down for the majority of the game.
The Golden Eagles faced Utah State University in a double-header on Feb. 18 and Prairie Baseball Academy (Canada) for a four game series on Feb. 24 and 25.
In the first game against Utah State University Golden Eagle starter Kort Christoffersen struck out seven in five innings of work while only giving up three hits. The Golden Eagle offense sputtered at times, but managed six runs.
The Golden Eagle defense was solid throughout the game and committed only one error. The offense was paced by Mason Moore, Hayden Basinger and Kody Christoffersen who each had two hits. USU Eastern defeated Utah State Univ. 6-0.
In the second game the Golden Eagles came out roaring and loaded the bases early but failed to score in the first inning. Starting pitcher Tory Ulibarri threw five strong innings and only gave up one earned run. Eastern broke the game open in the sixth inning with home runs by Mason Moore and Kody Christoffersen. The Eagles went into the seventh inning with a 6-2 lead. The Eastern defense struggled in the final inning by committing three errors. Utah State Aggies took a 7-6 lead.
Nuho Kraja led off the bottom of the seventh by a deep fly ball that was caught by the Aggies defense. Eastern, who were down to their final two outs as Moore came to the plate was hit by the pitch.
Matt Gochis came to the plate and hit a bases clearing double that tied the game. Golden Eagle hitters B.Kraja and Kd. Christoffersen drew walks to load the bases. Pinch hitter Denver Hansen hit a walk-off-single to win the game 8-7.
Incoming EUSA president Matt Gochis commented, “ I knew I was not going to let my team down. These are my brothers. I was looking for one pitch and when it came I was ready. I was not going to let another team beat us in that situation.”
USU Eastern then traveled to St. George to face the Canadian JUCO national champs in the Prairie Baseball Academy Prairie Dawgs. In the first game both teams took the lead several times in the game.
Going into the final inning USU Eastern blew the lead as a costly error led to a Praire Dawgs score to tie the game. Eastern pitcher Colby Tidwell worked out of a jam to only allow one run to the Prairie Dawgs in the inning. The game was forced to go to extra innings. In the eighth inning Prairie Baseball scored on a Steinke single. Although the Prairie Dawgs left two on base they scored the go-ahead run forcing Eastern to score or lose in the final inning.
Eastern started the inning off with a ground out to third base by Denver Hansen. Reggie Gates came to the plate and struck out swinging which left the Golden Eagles to their final out. Nuho Kraja then came to the plate and hit a clutch single through the left side of the field to extend the game. On the next pitch Kraja advanced to second on a wild pitch. Eastern third basemen Kody Christoffersen hit a single through the left side of the field as well and scored Kraja to tie the game.
Again Matt Gochis came to the plate with the chance to win the game. Gochis then drilled a full count pitch to the left-center field gap that scored Christoffersen on a close play at the plate to win the game 6-5. “ We never gave up. We are hard workers no matter what the odds are,” said Tidwell.
The following two games were not friendly to the baseball team as the Prairie Dawgs took their wrath from losing out on the Golden Eagle pitching staff. USU Eastern lost 15-3 and 10-3 and gave up a combined 23 hits in both games. “ We came out flat and seemed to lose our fire in those games. I am glad that we pulled it together in time to win another one,” said Head Coach Scott Madsen.
In the final game of the series the Golden Eagles found themselves in a familiar place as they were losing 3-1 in the fourth inning. The Golden Eagles found offensive help with homeruns by Denver Hansen and a two-run homerun by Chance Abrath in the seventh to put Eastern back on top in the final inning. Closer Mason “ Big Nasty,” Moore shut the door on Prairie’s offense to secure an Eastern victory.
The Golden Eagles might have been in tough situations but they definitely proved their worth as they pulled out four victories over the past two weeks. “ We had a full team effort this past weekend,” said Madsen.
The Golden Eagles have proved clutch in late inning situations. “ Scott [Madsen] always says in situations that we have the chance to win the game you might have to gamble on the base paths, you will either be the goat or the hero. Those words kept ringing in my head in those late inning games,” said assistant coach KC Smurthwaite who coaches third base.
The Golden Eagles (6-6) now open conference play at home March 1 and 2 against College of Southern Idaho. Admission is free for students with an ID.