Notebook: West Division Series Awaits Eureka Baseball

Photo courtesy of Kennedy Dura.
Photo courtesy of Kennedy Dura.

EUREKA, Ill. -- A pair of in-state non-conference games and a three-game St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference West Division series make the upcoming schedule for the Eureka College baseball team. The Red Devils will visit Knox Tuesday and Lincoln Christian Thursday before Fontbonne travels to Henry Sand Field this Saturday and Sunday.

ABOUT EUREKA

The Red Devils are 3-9 overall and 1-1 in conference action.

Six Eureka regulars average at least 3.1 plate appearances per game. Junior first baseman Ray Vogel leads the group with a line of .371/.465/.800, four home runs and 13 RBI in 35 at bats. Sophomore catcher Grant Mullin is hitting .282 in 12 starts, followed by junior shortstop Evan Smith at .278.

Eureka is hitting .250/.361/.350 as a team. Opponents have outscored the Red Devils 89-65 through the first 12 games.

Twelve different hurlers have toed the rubber for EC, six of which have made a start. Junior southpaw Isaiah Taylor has thrown a team-high 16.1 innings and leads the Red Devils with a 2.20 earned run average. Eureka's team ERA is 6.67 through 86.1 total innings.

RAY VOGEL NAMED SLIAC PLAYER OF THE WEEK

Thanks to a three-game weekend stretch that included four home runs and a 1.833 slugging percentage, Ray Vogel has been chosen SLIAC Hitter of the Week, according to an announcement from the league office, Monday afternoon.

Vogel erupted for a 4-for-5 effort in Friday's 8-7 SLIAC win over Blackburn, clubbing two homers to go along with a double and four RBI. He followed that performance with another 4-for-5 showing Sunday at Bradley, smashing two more home runs with a double and five RBI.

For the week, he went 8-for-12 (.667) with four runs scored, nine RBI, two doubles and four home runs.

Monday's announcement marks Vogel's second career SLIAC Hitter of the Week award.

LAST WEEK IN REVIEW

Eureka earned its first SLIAC win of the season last Friday after splitting a doubleheader with Blackburn at Henry Sand Field. The Red Devils recovered from a 7-0 defeat in the opener to take game two, 8-7. Isaiah Taylor secured his first win in a Eureka uniform and freshman Brady Sevier pitched the final 2.0 innings to earn his first collegiate save.

The Red Devils dropped their third and final game of the week, a 9-7 setback to Division I Bradley in Peoria.

PRINCIPIA TWIN BILL WASHED OUT

A doubleheader scheduled for Saturday against Principia at Henry Sand Field was postponed due to inclement weather. A makeup date has yet to be announced.

EUREKA AT KNOX (Tuesday, 3 p.m.)

Eureka will take its first road trip to an NCAA Division III opponent in more than two weeks when the Red Devils travel to Galesburg, Ill. Tuesday for a 3 p.m. non-conference bout with Knox.

The Prairie Fire is 4-4 through its first eight games. Knox played six times at the Russ Matt Central Florida Invitational, including a 9-8 loss to SLIAC member Greenville on March 18 in Winter Haven. Prior to its spring trip, KC swept a doubleheader from Robert Morris-Springfield by scores of 20-4 and 15-3.

Drake Sykes is 13-for-30 (.433) through eight starts, leading a KC offense that has put up a line of .339/.441/.487 in 277 total at bats. KC is averaging nearly 10 runs per game and has outscored the opposition 71-44.

The KC pitching staff owns a 4.75 ERA. Alec Jordan has two of the Prairie Fire's four wins and has struck out 23 hitters in 15.0 innings of work.Trevan Lowtharp has a team-best 2.45 ERA among players to have thrown at least 1.0 inning per game.

Longtime Knox coach Jami Isaacson is in his 18th season directing the Prairie Fire. The 1992 Knox graduate is the winningest coach in program history and guided KC to the 2008 Midwest Conference championship.

Despite only 64 miles separating the campuses of the in-state rivals, Eureka and Knox have met only six times since 2000. Knox has won four of those six contests and will be hosting the Red Devils for the first time since 2010.

EUREKA AT LINCOLN CHRISTIAN (Thursday, 3:30 p.m.)

The Red Devils will play the final game of a three-game non-conference road swing on Thursday when EC travels to square off against Lincoln Christian at 3:30 p.m. in Lincoln.

Lincoln Christian will enter the week with a 4-13 overall record, recording wins over Trinity International, Maranatha Baptist, Illinois College and Rust. LCU is scheduled to visit SLIAC member Blackburn in Carlinville, Ill. on Tuesday before hosting the Red Devils on Thursday. Rust, which dropped a 27-1 decision to Eureka earlier this month, topped the Red Lions 9-1 in game one of a doubleheader on March 24.

As a team, the Red Lions have struggled at the plate. LCU is 70-for-429 in 17 contests for a .163 average. Jordan Fredeking has started all 17 games and leads the team with 13 hits. His average of .236 joins teammate Logan Todd (.323) as the only two players on the roster with a batting average better than .200.

Brock Trexler is LCU's first option on the mound, putting up a 6.19 ERA in a team-high 32.0 innings. The Red Lions have a 7.78 team ERA.

Former LCU standout Ty Unger became head coach of the Red Lions prior to the 2016 season. His four-year tenure as a player at LCU included an NCCAA Division II All-Regional Team selection, a Second Team All-America choice and a spot on the NCCAA World Series All-Tournament Team.

Eureka is 10-2 against Lincoln Christian since 2006. The Red Devils took three out of four from the Red Lions last season and have won eight of the last nine in the series since 2008.

FONTBONNE AT EUREKA (Saturday doubleheader, 1 p.m.; Sunday, 1 p.m.)

SLIAC West Division rival Fontbonne will visit Henry Sand Field for a three-game series this weekend. The two squads will play a doubleheader Saturday at 1 p.m., followed by a single contest Sunday at 1 p.m.

The Griffins have played 16 games in 2017, owning a 5-11 record. Fontbonne most recently split four games on a spring trip to Auburndale, Fla., securing wins over St. Olaf and Chicago. The upcoming three-game weekend series will be FU's first three SLIAC games of the season.

Fontbonne boasts one of the SLIAC's best offenses, ranking second in batting average (.310), second in on-base percentage (.390) and fourth in slugging percentage (.386). Senior infielder Ethan Boyer leads a group of seven with at least 50 at-bats, hitting .379/.440/.500 in a team-high 66 at-bats.

Five different Griffins have pitched at least 15.1 innings in 2017, but none have an ERA lower than 4.30. FU has a team ERA of 7.62 ERA.

Ryan Good is in his 11th season as head coach at Fontbonne. A graduate of crosstown rival Webster, Good coached the Griffins to six consecutive SLIAC Tournament bids from 2009 through 2014, including the 2009 title.

Eureka and Fontbonne have played 30 times since March 2001. The Griffins own a 24-6 record in that time frame, including an 11-4 record in 15 meetings at Henry Sand Field. Since EC won three out of four over FU over the 2010 and 2011 seasons, Fontbonne has won 16 straight over the Red Devils.