APSU Men’s Baseball
Normal, IL – Austin Peay’s baseball team begins a seven-game road trip when it heads north to meet Illinois State in a three-game weekend series. The weekend gets underway with a 3:00pm, Friday contest followed by a 2:00pm, Saturday outing before wrapping up with a 1:00pm, Sunday matchup.
The Govs (8-7) have stumbled in their last 11 games, posting a 4-7 mark. Despite the rough stretch, Austin Peay has put a scare into strong opponents, losing a 5-4 contest at nationally-ranked Mississippi, March 1st, and a 5-3 decision to Tennessee, Wednesday.The Govs freshman duo of second baseman Jordan Hankins and outfielder Rolando Gautier continue their early season tears. Hankins has raced out to a .509 average and has reached safely in all 15 games this season (.603 on-base percentage). Gautier went 2-for-4 against Tennessee to run his hit streak to 14 games and enters the weekend batting .397 this season.
Behind that duo, the Govs “Old Guard” takes hold with junior outfielder Michael Blanchard (.357), sophomore shortstop Reed Harper (.293) and sophomore first baseman John Hogan (.263) ranking third, fourth and fifth, respectively, in batting average.
Blanchard, who had batted consistently in the No. 9 spot hit his season’s first home run, Wednesday, against Tennessee. Harper has seen his offensive output improve since moving into the No. 2 spot in the lineup, where he is batting .444 this season. Hogan has recently hit a rough patch at the plate, but continues to lead the team in home runs (3) and RBI (16).
On the mound, Austin Peay will turn to its trio of southpaws with only a slight change in order from last weekend’s rotation. Senior Jack Snodgrass will get the nod in game one, after pitching in the No. 2 spot last weekend. Junior Jeremy Dobbs will take up the No. 2 role this weekend for the first time this season. Sophomore Zach Toney, who was the Govs No. 1 last weekend, will move to the No. 3 role for the Illinois State series.
Illinois State (11-5) has won nine of its 11 games since its loss to Austin Peay, February 26th. The Redbirds won their home opener, 8-2, against SIU Edwardsville, Wednesday. Illinois State has won two games in each of its three three-game weekend series this season.
Senior infielder Ryan Court leads Illinois State with a .383 batting average with nine extra-base hits among his 23 total base hits this season. Senior outfielder Tyler McNeely (.311) and freshman catcher Mike Hollenbeck (.306) are also batting above .300 entering this weekend.
Senior right-hander Corey Maines is unbeaten in four appearances this season, bringing a 2-0 record into his Friday start with 24 strikeouts in 23.1 innings. Freshman right-hander Dan Savas, Saturday’s starter, also has a 2-0 record in three starts this season, limiting opponents to a .241 batting average. The Redbirds’ Sunday starter has not been named.
Notes From The Tennessee Game
Austin Peay had plenty of opportunities in its 5-3 loss to Tennessee, Wednesday, leaving 14 men on base. The Govs demise came courtesy their 1-of-14 performance with runners in scoring position. Sophomore designated hitter Cody Hudson had a season-high three hits in the game. Freshman outfielder Rolando Gautier extended his hit streak to 14 games with a 2-for-4 outing – his fifth multi-hit game this season.
Junior outfielder Michael Blanchard hit his season’s first home run, a solo blast in the third… On the mound, it was a “staff” day for the Govs with six pitchers seeing action. Freshman starter Alex Belew picked up the loss after allowing three runs (two earned) over 2.2 innings. The Govs beleaguered relief corps, which allowed 11 earned runs in 6.1 innings over three games at Arkansas State – held Tennessee to two runs over the final 6.1 innings.
Coming Up: Western Kentucky
Austin Peay’s seven-game road trip continues with a Wednesday contest at Western Kentucky – the first game of a home-and-home series between the two teams. It will be the 146th meeting all-time between the two teams, the Hilltoppers holding a 87-58 edge.