Our weekly look at 10 things we learned from the week that was in OVC baseball
1. Louisiana-Lafayette doesn’t take kindly to being upset
The first major upset by an OVC team this season came on Friday, as Eastern Illinois topped #14 Louisiana-Lafayette 5-1 in their season opener. Jake Johanmeister (1-0) only allowed three hits in the win, which helped him earn the OVC’s first pitcher of the week award for the season. But UL-Lafayette responded with back-to-back shutouts of the Panthers Saturday, on their way to winning the series.
2. Fielding is important, Austin Peay
The Bat Govs season got off to a rough start, at least from a fielding aspect. Through the opening weekend, Austin Peay’s fielding percentage is below .900, after committing 14 errors in their three game series against Iowa. Another concern: the six wild pitches thrown in the three games. There is good news: they hit the ball fairly well overall, and freshman Ridge Smith was sensational in his debut.
3. Sunday is “20-run-day”
Poor SIUE and Morehead State. Both were thumped on Sunday, with Morehead State giving up 22 to George Mason, and the Cougars giving up 21 to Wichita State. The difference would be how the bats performed in their series: The Eagles are hitting .284, second best in a very young season. SIUE? .163, second worst. It is worth mentioning: SIUE’s opponent, Wichita State, is ranked No. 34.
4. A new coach might not turn around UTM’s fortunes immediately.
…not that we should have necessilary expected it to. I hate to pick on the Skyhawks, but this weekend wasn’t exactly an auspicious start. It’s not just that the Skyhawks were swept by a UAB team that finished last season 13-games behind .500, (including two losses to Jacksonville State) it’s that UT Martin hit just .155, and had more than 2.5 times as many strikeouts (39) as hits. (15) The pitching, on the other hand, was far from terrible, which isn’t a surprise given the experience in their pitching ranks.
5. The OVC’s two top closers are off to a solid start
Tennessee Tech’s Seth Lucio and Travis Stout were both named to the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association Stopper of the Year Watch List, and they both had solid opening weekends. Lucio and Stout both earned a pair of saves. Lucio allowed one hit over 2.1 innings of work, Stout a pair of hits in two innings.
6. Gary McClure passes another milestone
Austin Peay’s head coach won his 800th game on Sunday, making him just one of 28 active Division I head coaches to reach that mark, and the top all-time in the OVC. He took over the program in fall of 1987, taking over as interim head coach from his position as graduate assistant. In his first season, McClure went 23-27, a marked improvement from the two years before, helping him shed the interim tag. Last season, he became the first coach to win 300 conference games.
7. There’s one good reason not to be worried about the quiet Belmont bats
…because they got the ball in play. The Bruins hit just .171 in their opening series against Bowling Green, but unlike the other sub .500 teams, they weren’t whiffing. Belmont struck out 12 times, the second fewest strikeouts of any team on opening weekend. (Only Murray State was better with 10, and they played on fewer game) Their .983 fielding percentage is also second best on opening weekend. If they continue to get the bat on the ball, they’ll find more of their balls falling safely into play.
8. We shouldn’t overlook SEMO’s performance so far
Again, it’s early, but if you look at the batting averages across the league, the team on top: Southeast Missouri. The Redhawks hit .292 in a three-game series against Oral Roberts. ORU is coming off a sub .500 year, but a 16-11 record in the Southland. SEMO’s pitching struggled somewhat, but a solid opening weekend should put the Redhawks on your radar for now.
9. February baseball means weather issues
Most of the games this weekend went off without a hitch, but there were a few cancellations, including Illinois State at Murray State and a few postponements on Friday. That’s going to happen in the winter.
10. Eastern Kentucky gets four chances at three top-10 teams in the next week
On Wednesday, the Colonels make a short trip to face No. 7 Louisville. They’ll then head to No. 5 South Carolina for a three game series starting on Friday. That’s a brutal week for the team picked to finish fifth in their own conference, but also a great opportunity to get some recognition if they can pull off a few wins.