Posted: Mar 30, 2019
EUREKA — Last week, the Eureka baseball team took down Monmouth in non-conference play and fell to No. 12 Webster in a tough St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference-opening series.
The Red Devils had this week off to recharge, and now, they're ready to defend their home field for the first time.
On Sunday, Iowa Wesleyan will come to campus for a three-game SLIAC series. First pitch at Henry Sand Field will take place at 1 p.m., with the second half of the twin bill to follow. Then, on Monday, the series will conclude with a final game at 12 p.m.
MIXED RESULTS ON THE ROAD AND A WEEK OFF
Competing against the 12th-ranked team in the country on its home field is a tough way to open SLIAC play. However, it's also an opportunity to see what work needs to be done to contend at that level.
EC coach Jerry Rashid says the Red Devils (4-8, 0-3 in SLIAC play) need to get physically stronger, be more accurate on the mound and, above all else, execute at the plate with men on base. Against Webster, the Red Devils stranded an average of 8.33 runners per game.
"We're competitive in the fact that we're getting guys on, but now we have to finish it off by knocking it in," Rashid said. "That's something our bottom of the order has to be better at. We have to be more consistent throughout the lineup. Because if we do, then we're going to score some runs, and that's going to make a huge difference in our win total."
On the positive side of the ledger, though, Eureka was defensively sound throughout the weekend. In the first and closest game of the series — a 4-2 loss in which the Red Devils scored the first run — EC didn't commit a single error. They only had two in the next two games combined, even though the Gorloks outscored them 21-2. Throw in the Monmouth game from last Wednesday, and EC only recorded two all week.
"Defensively, and individually, we had some good performances," Rashid added. "We just have to be a little tougher at the plate to be a little more competitive."
Seniors Sean Green and Grant Mullin remain the Red Devils' most consistent two-way players. The duo combined for over half of the team's hits over the course of the week. Green, a center fielder from Peoria, is batting a team-high .464 with two doubles and a home run. Mullin, a catcher from Chicago, follows at .316 with a team-high four doubles and nine RBIs. Mullin has only notched one error, while Green has yet to commit any.
Freshman J.D. Theile was the Red Devils' pitching standout last week after capturing SLIAC Pitcher of the Week honors with a shutout against Monmouth, but senior Joe Quinn held his own for most of his start in the first Webster game. He limited a high-scoring Gorlok squad to four runs on seven hits in nearly five innings.
The Red Devils have been banged up in the first few weeks of the season, and although Rashid knows they aren't quite at full strength, he is pleased his team was able to rest up and get a little healthier before this weekend's home series.
The last time EC faced Iowa Wesleyan, the Red Devils recorded their first three-game SLIAC series sweep since 2013. This is another chance for the team to make a statement.
After 12 straight games on the road, the Red Devils are eager to play in home territory. Rashid is hoping for good weather for all the fans at Henry Sand Field to enjoy. This year, the field has new bleachers – 50 chair seats behind home plate waiting to be filled by Red Devil nation.
"Any time it's opening day, it's special," Rashid said. "We're looking for a big crowd, supportive crowd, to make this a fun event — make it a happening."
THEILE NAMED SLIAC PITCHER OF THE WEEK
For the first time in his young collegiate career, Eureka's J.D. Theile is the St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference/Diamond Sports Pitcher of the Week.
Last Wednesday, the freshman southpaw stepped on the mound at Monmouth and led Eureka to a 2-0 victory. Theile (2-1) pitched eight scoreless innings of three-hit ball while only walking one and striking out seven. With the standout performance, he lowered his season ERA to .96 on the season and reached 16 Ks in three starts over 18.2 innings.
Theile's selection marks the second time a Eureka player has been named SLIAC Pitcher of the Week in the past two years. Isaiah Taylor received the honor on April 16, 2018.
vs. IOWA WESLEYAN (Sunday, 1 p.m., Monday 12 p.m.)
The Tigers are heading to Eureka with a 3-12-1 record on the season and a 1-3 mark in SLIAC play after splitting with SLIAC foe Principia on the road, and then getting shut out by Washington University in a non-conference contest on Tuesday. SLIAC East leader Greenville swept them in the Tigers' SLIAC-opening series the week before that.
Iowa Wesleyan has lost 11 of its past 12 games. Its other wins came over common EC opponent Northland College in Jacksonville, Illinois, back in February. A couple of weeks later, the Red Devils drummed Northland College in a pair of 9-0 victories.
The team's best offensive weapon is sophomore Nick Salas, who leads the team in hits (15), RBIs (15), runs scored (13), doubles (six), home runs (three) and walks (10). He has a team-best .357/.526/.714 slash rate. Jacob Leonard, Jack De Burgh and Minami Matsumoto have all tallied double-digit hits, but no one else is batting more than .278.
The pitchers EC is mostly likely to see are Swinson Everett (7.91 ERA in 19.1 innings), Joe Morrison (4.74 ERA in 19 innings) and Clayton Lathen (6.1 ERA in 17.2 innings).