Clarksville, TN – A nine-game sprint to finish in the Top 4 of the Ohio Valley Conference standings begins this weekend for the Austin Peay State University (APSU) baseball team as it travels to Eastern Illinois for a three-game series, Friday-Saturday.
As the final three weeks begin across the OVC, Austin Peay State University sits in fifth place, one game behind both Murray State and Jacksonville State which are both tied for third.
The APSU Govs will play both those teams in the upcoming weeks, but first they must get past an Eastern Illinois team that is just 2½ games out of a tournament spot entering the weekend.
Austin Peay State University finished its nine-game homestand with a victory against Bellarmine, Wednesday. Center fielder Garrett Spain made the most of the friendly confines, batting .421 over the nine games. Third baseman Gino Avros posted a .390 batting average while second baseman Malcolm Tipler posted a .524 on-base percentage thanks to nine walks.
Eastern Illinois returns home after winning an OVC series at SIU Edwardsville last weekend. Reliever Alex Stephenson jumped in to provide 4.1 innings of scoreless relief to help the Panthers secure a 4-3 victory in Game 1 at SIUE. Shortstop Trey Sweeney batted in five runs in Game 2 of the series. Sweeney is second in the OVC with 29 RBI in league action this season.
Inside The Series
The Series: 77 previous meetings, APSU leads 45-32
Previously: APSU swept the 2019 series at EIU (13-9, 29-5, 6-3).
Notably: Austin Peay State University has mostly dominated the series since 2011 winning 20 of 27. The last two series between the teams have resulted in sweeps. EIU swept APSU in Clarksville during the 2018 series and the Govs returned the favor in Charleston in 2019. The Govs have not lost a series in Charleston since 2010.
Toeing The Rubber
Game 1 | Luke Brown (RHP) vs. Cameron Doherty (RHP)
Brown has been the APSU Govs No. 1 starter since March 26th against Belmont. In his six Game 1 starts he is 2-1 with a complete game (at UTM) and 26.0 innings pitched. The Govs are 5-1 in his starts as the No. 1, with the offense providing 10.5 runs of support.
Game 2 | TBA vs. Ky Hampton (RHP)
The Govs have used four different hurlers in the No. 2 spot in the eight weeks since the start of OVC play. RHP Sebastian Martinez has taken the reins the past two weekends with 12 strikeouts in 9.0 innings pitched. Austin Peay is 2-6 in Game 2’s this season, the offense providing 5.5 runs of support.
Game 3 | TBA vs. TBA
Five different Govs also have taken a turn as the Govs No. 3 starter this season. RHP Drew McIllwain has started four of the last five Game 3s and is 1-1 with 21 strikeouts in 22.2 innings with a 3.57 ERA. In the eight weeks since the start of OVC play, Austin Peay State University is 4-4 in Game 3’s, the offense supplying 4.8 runs of support.
Catcher Jack Alexander has hits in back-to-back games entering the weekend. He also has reached safely in 9 of his last 10 games.
Third baseman Gino Avros was just 1-for-30 (.033) at the plate through the season’s first 11 games. But his turnaround over the last 32 games has been remarkable, batting .373 (47-126) with a commanding .456 on-base percentage since March 14.
John Bolton led Austin Peay State University with a .455 on-base percentage in the Arkansas State series. He walked three times in Game 1, scoring twice, and went 2-for-4 in Game 2 of the series.
Harrison Brown came off the bench to provide a 2-run triple against Bellarmine, Wednesday. He has a hit in five of his last seven games (.294, 5-17) with five RBI.
Knaje Guthrie has played left field and second base over the past four games. He was 3-for-7 against Arkansas State over the weekend before walking three times and scoring twice against Bellarmine, Wednesday.
Bobby Head has started at all four infield positions and in right field this season. He has played the past five games at first base in place of the injured John McDonald and is 3-for-14 with five RBI and four walks at the plate, scoring three times
First baseman John McDonald enjoyed a 4-for-5, four RBI outing against North Alabama, April 27th, including a walk-off single in the ninth. He pushed his average to .296 which is just shy of his season-best of .308 on Feb. 28.
In nine games since being held hitless in back-to-back games, April 17th and 20th, center fielder Garrett Spain has batted .421 (16-38) with eight RBI, seven stolen bases, and eight runs scored.
Second baseman Malcolm Tipler has reached safely in his last 17 games. He has 21 hits and 15 walks during the streak for a .493 on-base percentage and a .356 batting average.
Outfielder Jeremy Wagner has started five straight games and is batting .278 (5-18) with a double, triple, and RBI in those games.