4.16 eku

EKU’s Austin Grisham jumps up against the center field fence trying to catch a home run off the batt of Eastern Illinois’ T.J. McManus Sunday at Turkey Hughes Field in Richmond.

The Colonels have been doing a lot of things right during the past few weeks.

And as a result, they’ve won nine of the past 11 games and are tied for second place in the Ohio Valley Conference.

Still, there’s one problem that’s a major concern for EKU coach Jason Stein.

“We don’t have a Sunday starter right now,” he said. “No one will step up. So, if we can get that solved, then we will be fine.”

That was the case once again Sunday against Eastern Illinois (14-19, 5-6 OVC) at Turkey Hughes Field.

Sophomore right-hander Blake Bottoms (0-3) got the start and went just 2 1/3 innings, allowing five runs. Eastern Illinois jumped out to a 6-0 lead in the third inning and held on for a 9-7 win in the series finale.

In each of the past two weekends, the Colonels (16-17, 8-4 OVC) have won the first two games of a weekend OVC series, only to be denied the sweep with a Sunday loss.

Through the first four OVC series of season, EKU has used three different Sunday starters and really only gotten one quality start.

Junior right-hander Anthony Bazzani pitched 5 1/3 innings of relief against EIU, but gave up three runs on five hits and issued six walks.

After trailing big early, the Colonels scored three times in the third on a solo home run by Austin Grisham and a two-run run homer by Bryan Soloman. In the fifth, Dustin Dunlop delivered a two-run double that cut the EIU lead to 6-5.

The Panthers got two of those runs back in the sixth. Ryan Dineen drew a two-out walk and Nick Priessman followed that up with a two-run home run off Bazzani.

“(We issued) two two-out walks today and both those runs scored,” Stein said. “So, there’s something right there that killed us.”

T.J. McManus homered in the top of the ninth of Bazzani to give EIU a four-run lead (9-5).

The Colonels tried to rally in the ninth.

Freshman pinch-hitter John Wilson ripped a one-out double down the right field line. Jacob Daniel then delivered a triple into left-center, scoring Wilson.

Soloman followed that up with a sacrifice fly to deep center field.

Dunlop then grounded out to end the game.

“I thought we’d get the tying run to the plate and with the wind blowing out, you never know what could have happened,” Stein said.

Soloman was 2-for-4 with three RBIs and two runs scored to pace the EKU offense. Daniel was 2-for-5 with an RBI and three runs scored.

The loss drops EKU into a tie for second place with Jacksonville State (14-20, 8-4 OVC). Both the Colonels and Gamecocks trail Austin Peay (22-13, 9-2 OVC) by 1 1/2 games.

EKU is set to face Appalachian State on Tuesday and Wednesday on the road before returning home Friday for a weekend series with Austin Peay.

“It’s probably our toughest five-game stretch of the season,” Stein said. “Appalachian State is ranked in the Top 30 and Austin Peay is at the top of our league.”

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