Murray State must win to keep OVC hopes alive

Jenny Rohl/The News
Sophomore infielder Caleb Hicks has played in all 45 games and is hitting .298 to keep the Racers in the hunt for the OVC Tournament.Jenny Rohl/The News Sophomore infielder Caleb Hicks has played in all 45 games and is hitting .298 to keep the Racers in the hunt for the OVC Tournament.

Story by Mark McFarlandSports Editor

Jenny Rohl/The News Sophomore infielder Caleb Hicks has played in all 45 games and is hitting .298 to keep the Racers in the hunt for the OVC Tournament.

Jenny Rohl/The News
Sophomore infielder Caleb Hicks has played in all 45 games and is hitting .298 to keep the Racers in the hunt for the OVC Tournament.

With three weekends left in the regular season, the Racer baseball team is in a three-way tie for the final spot in the OVC Tournament.

Murray State is tied with Tennessee Tech and Eastern Kentucky at 10-11 in the conference. Tennessee Tech is a team the Racers were able to sweep earlier this season, and Murray State won’t play Eastern until the last series of the regular season. All season the middle of the conference has been a close race for the final few spots in the tournament.  The Racers haven’t been to the OVC Tournament since 2010, and the seniors have never made it to the postseason.

Head Coach Kevin Moulder said the seniors really want to make the tournament and the team wants to do it for them.

“It would mean a lot,” Moulder said. “I’d feel really happy for our seniors, who’ve had a long tough four years, and especially want it for that group of guys. It would be a good opportunity for them to go out and get the chance to compete and go to a regional.”

The Racers are going into the last three weeks of the season having won six of their last nine games with a four-game win streak. In the last seven games, Murray State has scored an average of six runs per game. Moulder said the offense is really starting to put it together.

“We’ve had so many new players, it’s their first time playing Division I baseball, and they’re talented,” Moulder said. “The players we have are good enough, plenty good enough. Now that they have been through the process a little bit, they’re starting to figure out how things work. They’ve worked hard all season and now they’re just getting the results of that work.”

Jenny Rohl/The News Junior right-handed pitcher Ryan Dills has allowed two or less earned runs in his last three starts.

Jenny Rohl/The News
Junior right-handed pitcher Ryan Dills has allowed two or less earned runs in his last three starts.

Murray State is coming off a series loss to Southeast Missouri State, in which the Racers were only able to take one game from the Redhawks.

Junior right-handed pitcher Ryan Dills has led the pitching staff as the team’s ace. He started off the year with a couple rough games, but in his last three starts Dills has allowed two or less earned runs. Moulder said Dills has helped bring the team a lot of confidence.

“It’s nice when you have a guy that you can kind of lean on and set the tone,” Moulder said. “We certainly feel really confident when he’s on the mound. He’s been our ace and when he has outings like he’s been doing it sets up the whole weekend for us and gives us a great chance to win the weekend.”

The Racers have three conference series left, two of which will be played at Reagan Field. The series consists of playing Belmont and Morehead State at home and traveling to Eastern. Murray State has a 16-8 record at home and a 6-16 record on the road. Belmont and Morehead State are both 12-9 in the OVC. Moulder said these three series will really test to see what his team is made of.

“If they keep doing what we have been doing recently, the results will work themselves out for us, I really believe that,” Moulder said. “The funny thing is, the three teams we have left on the weekend are teams that we are battling it out with, so you don’t really need to scoreboard watch  – it’s sitting there literally right in front of you.”