USU Eastern baseball off to a rocky start in Arizona

Posted Thursday, February 18, 2016 - 4:02pm

The USU Eastern baseball team returns from Arizona over President’s Day weekend, winning one of the eight games against Eastern Arizona College (four games) and Central Arizona College (four games). “We are gaining confidence and experience each weekend playing against good teams from down south in preparation for conference play.” Coach Scott Madsen said concerning the past weekends eight games.

Madsen also added, “These games in the preseason help us assess the depth of our team as well as the challenges and fine tuning aspects of the game that we need to address in practice to prepare for the regular season.”

The Eagles faced a rigorous schedule, slated to play 60 innings worth of baseball in eight games over four days; the most work the team’s pitching staff has faced thus far this season. They responded well in the first series against EAC in Thatcher, Ari.

In game number one of the four-game series, Ridge Nielson singled in the third inning to score Reggie Gates and the Eagles found themselves leading the game one to zero through five innings of the seven-inning game. In the sixth inning EAC tied the game one to one. Starting pitcher Bennett Bradford threw five innings, allowing one run on three hits while striking out three. With the game going into extra innings the Eagles fell two to one, on a walk-off double in the bottom of the eighth inning from EAC.

Game number two against EAC was underway shortly after the heartbreaking loss in game one. Kirk Haney took the mound for USU Eastern. Haney guided the Eagles to their first win of the season, throwing seven innings for the complete-game win. He allowed three runs, four hits and struck out 5 in his complete-game win against EAC.

“My arm felt good throughout the whole game and I trusted my defense behind me, it was a team effort and I was happy to be a part of it,” Haney said. Haney pitched through some tough situations with the Eagles trailing through three innings. Junior Centeno tied the game in the top of the fourth inning when he grounded out to the shortstop, scoring Nielson.

The Eagles took control of the game in the top of the seventh inning. With the game tied, Cory McKendrick drew a lead-off walk, and was moved over to second base on a sacrifice bunt from Cooper Thorpe.

After back-to-back walks from Chase Decosse and Reggie Gates, the Eagles had the bases loaded with one out. McKendrick and Austin Geurtsen (courtesy speed-up runner for catcher Decosse) scored on wild pitches from EAC’s pitcher, giving the Eagles a three-to-one lead. Nielson drew a walk and Nathan Hedberg drove in Gates and Nielson with a bases clearing double.

With USUE leading five to one, Haney took the mound in the bottom of the seventh and after allowing two runs, closed the door on the win; final score five to three for the Eagles. “[The win] brought a lot of confidence going forward towards the regular season with one more series left to play before we play Salt Lake Community College,” said Haney.

Notables over the eight games the past weekend were Hedberg, who had six hits including two doubles and a home run, driving in three runs and scoring three runs himself.

On his weekend offensively Hedberg said, “My approach was to focus on hitting the ball hard to the part of the field that would move the runners over. We faced some great pitching this weekend...The first few games I was struggling squaring the ball up consistently...Then on Sunday, I really worked on not dipping my back shoulder and hitting the ball square. And after the adjustment I hit a home run and a double.”

Other notables included Geurtsen, who had five hits and two runs scored over the weekend. Bradford had three hits including two doubles with one RBI and Nielson had three hits with two RBI’s and two runs scored.

The Eagles have rescheduled the upcoming home games that were on Feb. 19-20 against Mesa State University Club team to Feb. 26-27. Come to the baseball field and support the team in their first home games of the year.

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