Story by Keith Jaco
Murray State Racer baseball is off to its hottest conference start since 2010, winning its fifth-consecutive conference series over Southeast Missouri State over the weekend.
With the Racers’ 10-5 conference record following two wins over SEMO, Murray State is the outright leader in the OVC.
Head Coach Dan Skirka is happy with his team’s repetitive success but knows the team’s focus is on the next opponent.
“We told the guys enjoy it [Saturday] and we’ll get to work on Monday,” Skirka said. “We’ll prepare for Evansville on Tuesday and Belmont on the weekend. We’ve really just been taking it day-by-day and they’ve bought in.”
Skirka says his favorite part of alumni weekend was catching up with former players and seeing his current one make huge impacts for the team.
“It was an awesome weekend,” Skirka said. “Any time you win a series its special and we had guys step up, we’re having different ones each week, [Jordan] Cozart and [Jaron] Robinson are each playing well for us right now. And any time you get to honor Coach Reagan its a special day, seeing all the alumni and talking with them and sharing stories, that never gets old.”
Murray State was forced to move the series up a day by hosting a doubleheader on Friday, April 12. The Racers wore their throwback “Breds” jerseys in accordance with alumni weekend and the retiring of former Racer head coach Johnny Reagan’s number 36.
Behind a strong pitching performance from junior right-handed pitcher Trevor McMurray, Murray State took home a win in game one of the doubleheader, 9-5.
McMurray picked up his second win of the season, throwing six innings of five-hit ball, giving up two runs with six strikeouts and two walks.
The Racers scored the first nine runs of the game including a seven-run third inning fueled by two singles, two doubles and a two-run home run by junior catcher Bryan Chilton, his first of the season.
Murray State added another run in the bottom of the fourth as junior first baseman Ryan Perkins singled to center field, scoring redshirt sophomore left fielder Jake Slunder and extending the Racers’ lead to 8-0.
Perkins earned his third RBI of the game in the home half of the sixth, singing through the right side, scoring junior right fielder Brock Anderson and giving the Racers a commanding 9-0 lead.
The Redhawks started their comeback effort in the top of the seventh as freshman catcher Andrew Keck sent a two RBI single through the left side, cutting the Racer lead to 9-2.
A wild pitch by senior right-handed pitcher Peyton Hayes brought home another SEMO run, cutting their deficit to six, 9-3.
Despite scoring two more runs in the top of the ninth, the Redhawks’ comeback came up short as the Racers took game one 9-5.
In game two, the Redhawks took the lead first, scoring one run in the top half of the fourth, sixth and seventh innings, taking a 3-0 lead heading into the seventh inning stretch at Reagan Field.
The Racers responded in the bottom of the seventh as junior catcher Vito Iovino singled up the middle, scoring senior shortstop Jaron Robinson, cutting the Redhawk lead to 3-1.
SEMO got this run back in the top of the eighth, scoring on a single to left field, giving the Redhawks a 4-1 lead.
Junior third baseman Jordan Cozart added another run in the bottom of the eighth on a single to left field, scoring Anderson and cutting the lead back to a two-run deficit, 4-2.
The Racers went quietly in the bottom of the ninth, surrendering game two to the Redhawks 4-2.
In the rubber match on Saturday, April 13, freshman left-handed pitcher Shane Burns shined for the Racers, tossing seven ? innings, giving up just three runs on six hits while striking out seven and walking one.
After going down 1-0 in the top half of the inning, the Racers responded in the bottom of the second with a two-RBI single from Robinson, scoring Anderson and redshirt freshman designated hitter Wes Schad.
Following Robinson’s single, a bases-loaded walk to redshirt sophomore second baseman Jordan Holly extended the Racers’ lead to 3-1.
A sacrifice fly from Slunder wrapped up the Racers’ scoring in the second as Murray State took a 4-1 lead over the Redhawks.
SEMO used an RBI double in the top of the third to get a run back from the Racers and cut its deficit to 4-2.
Murray State responded with another sacrifice fly in the home half of the third and the bottom of the sixth, one coming from Robinson and another from Holly, extending the Racer lead to 6-2.
Another late-game comeback fell short for the Redhawks as they scored one in the top of the eighth and two in the top of ninth before the Racers secured the 6-5 victory.
Murray State will be at home once again this week as they welcome the Evansville Aces at 5 p.m. on Tuesday, April 16, at Reagan Field.