Jackson, TN – Austin Peay State University (APSU) baseball starting pitcher Drew McIllwain put together his best outing of the season at just the right time of the season, leading the Governors to a 3-1 victory to eliminate Morehead State in the 2021 Ohio Valley Conference Baseball Championship, Friday, in The Ballpark at Jackson.
Austin Peay State University (23-32) advances to face Murray State in a noon, Saturday elimination game. The winner of that game advances to the championship round to face regular-season champion Southeast Missouri at 4:00pm, Saturday.
Southeast Missouri advanced to the championship round with a 6-5 come-from-behind victory against Murray State earlier Friday.
But back to Friday and the story of the day as McIllwain (2-3) provided 7.1 innings of relief and he held the Eagles scoreless for the first seven innings. After allowing an inning-ending double in the second, he did not allow another base hit until a one-out double in the eighth – a stretch of 18 batters where he did not allow a runner in scoring position.
Meanwhile, third baseman Gino Avros was doing what leadoff hitters should do in big games – get on base and score. He reached base and scored as the leadoff batter in the first, third and eighth innings to account for all three runs.
Avros led off the game with a walk advanced around the bases on an error and a ground out before center fielder Garrett Spain drove him in with a single. In the third, Avros again walked, advanced two bases on a Spain single and scored on first baseman Bobby Head’s single. Then in the eighth, he singled and advanced on a sacrifice bunt before head again drove him in with a single.
Morehead State (24-23) had an opportunity to get on the board in both the first and second innings. A one-out single and a walk put two on board in the first but McIllwain got back-to-back fly outs to end the frame. In the second, a one-out walk nearly scored on left fielder Jacob Ferry’s double to right fielder Skyler Luna, but the APSU Govs defense made a highlight-reel worthy relay play to cut the runner down at home to secure the shutout.
The Eagles would not threaten again until the eighth inning. Second baseman Bryce Hensor doubled center fielder Ryley Preece walked, and third baseman Stephen Hill was hit by a pitch to load the bases – ending McIllwain’s outing.
Austin Peay State University turned to reliever Tucker Weaver who got off to a rough start when he issued a walk to the first batter he faced, driving in a run. However, he induced a critical ground ball that the APSU Govs turned into an inning-ending double play to end the threat. Weaver returned in the ninth and worked around a two-out single to retire the side and end the game for his season’s first save.
Head led the Govs offense with a 2-for-4, two RBI effort. Spain went 2-for-3 with a RBI. Austin Peay State University was held to five base hits – all singles – but also earned five walks.
Ferry went 2-for-4 for Morehead State’s only multi-hit outing in a five-hit day. MSU starting pitcher Matt Bettio (2-2) suffered the loss after allowing a run on a hit and two walks while facing only five hitters and recording two outs. Reliever Joe Rokis, the Eagles second reliever, went seven innings and allowed two runs on four hits.
Austin Peay 3, Morehead State 1