This archived article was written by: Shaun Peterson
USU Eastern’s Baseball team got off to a rocky start last weekend in sunny Arizona as they began a six-game road trip that left the Eagles winless.
Defensive errors plagued the team throughout the weekend, but the Eagles hitting and pitching looked encouraging according to head coach Scott Madsen, who expressed optimism about the team’s play. “The first weekend always seems to be tough. It is a time when we learn the areas we need to work on. The team played well at times. We just need to put it together for an entire ball game.”
The Eagles began with a two-game series in Tucson, against Pima Community College, where they came out aggressive after leadoff hitter Austin Geurtsen was hit by the pitch. Sean Hardman and Greg Money both singled to load the bases. After a strikeout, second baseman Bryce Blackburn walked to bring home the first run. Hardman reached home on a fielder’s choice to give the Eagles an early 2-0 lead. The Aztecs stormed back tying the game at three after three innings of play, eventually scoring five in the fourth and two in the fifth. The Eagles bats went cold with only one base hit in the final four innings, ending the game with a 10-3 defeat.
Game two saw the Eagles struggle offensively as they only managed one run on four hits. Freshman outfielder Bennett Bradford hit a triple, and then scored on a passed ball. Pima scorched the ball, scoring 12 runs on eight hits, finishing the game with a 12-1 victory.
The team then headed to Yuma, Ariz., for a four-game series with Arizona Western College. The Eagles sent ace Hardman to the mound where he delivered an outstanding performance, denying the Matador’s any earned runs with six strikeouts in seven innings of work. Defense proved to once again be the Eagles demise giving AWC five unearned runs on the day. The offense scattered four hits throughout the seven innings, giving the Eagles their third straight loss, 10-0.
The Eagles eliminated their scoring woes early in the fourth game, when left-fielder Greg Ashley reached base, followed by sophomore first baseman Money’s single to bring him home, giving them an early lead. After both team scored a pair of runs over the next four innings, the Eagles managed a 3-2 lead going into the bottom half of the fifth. The Matador’s bats proved to be too much for the Eagles as they put up seven runs on seven hits in the next three innings to pull away with a 10-5 victory.
The bright spots on the day where Money who went 4-4, and Ashley who recorded three hits. Freshman lefty Dakota Carlson gave a great debut performance on the mound, going 5 1/3 only giving up four runs.
Game five found the Eagles tied going into the third. sophomore third baseman Hadley Thorpe, walked followed by a triple from first baseman Hardman, scoring Thorpe. Left fielder Ashley then singled to score Hardman, giving the Eagles a 3-1 lead going into the bottom of the third. Hopes were high, but the Matadors charged back, leaving the Eagles down 6-4 going into the seventh. Sophomore third baseman Shaun Peterson took a walk and waited for Ashley to single him in and cut the lead to one, but late in the game defensive miscues gave the Matador’s four more runs in the seventh and eighth. USUE couldn’t recover and lost 10-7.
The Eagles played their best game of the trip and took the Matadors to extra innings. With the game tied at 2-2 in the bottom of the sixth inning, the Eagles called on Sophomore Jayce Hill to get them out of a no out bases loaded jam. After striking out the first batter, Hill produced a ground ball to third baseman Thorpe who touched his base and fired to first for the double play. Both teams scored a pair of runs and the game was all tied at four after 9 innings of play. After the Eagles couldn’t produce a run in the top of the tenth, the Matador’s came through with triple and a single to seal the victory and the four game sweep. Thorpe started the game for the Eagles and pitched great going 4 2/3, only allowing four hits and two runs. Hill was also outstanding out of the bullpen going 3 1/3 with 3 strikeouts. Geurtsen and Bennett Bradford both had a pair of hits to lead the way for the Eagles.
The Eagles head to Las Vegas on Feb. 13-14 for their next three games against Prairie Baseball Academy, Southern Nevada and Colorado Northwestern.