Notebook: Eureka Raises Curtain on SLIAC Schedule Friday

Photo courtesy of Michelle Curl.
Photo courtesy of Michelle Curl.

EUREKA, Ill. -- The Eureka College baseball team will play its first true road games of the season and begin the 22-game St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference schedule Friday morning when the Red Devils visit reigning East Division champion Greenville for an 11 a.m. doubleheader.

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The Red Devils will close the weekend with a pair of non-conference games. Eureka will take the short trip to Peoria on Saturday for a 2 p.m. first pitch with NCAA Division I Bradley before returning home Sunday for a 1 p.m. start with Knox.

LAST WEEK IN REVIEW
Eureka went 2-2-1 during a five-game homstand last week, its longest March homestand since 2001. The Red Devils topped Monmouth for the first time since 1951 last Wednesday and also tied the Scots during the non-conference twin bill, EC's first baseball tie since the 2009 season.
 
The Red Devils dropped their first-ever baseball matchup with NAIA Viterbo (Wis.) last Friday, 4-2, before closing the week with a doubleheader split with USCAA Robert Morris-Springfield on Sunday.
 
Eureka hit .256 as a team during the five-game stretch, led by a .429 mark from junior center fielder Sean Green. Junior catcher Grant Mullin homered four times  and drove in 13 runs during the week as part of a 1.176 slugging percentage in 19 plate appearances. Sophomore left fielder Braxten Ary added his first collegiate home run in EC's 11-9 win over Monmouth and sophomore second baseman Jake Carter went 5-for-13 with three walks for a .500 on-base percentage.
 
Freshman right-hander David Throw earned his first collegiate win in Sunday's 2-1 triumph over Robert Morris-Springfield and freshman Mason Diederich saved both wins in relief. The Red Devils put up a team ERA of 6.17 with 27 strikeouts in 35.0 innings of work.
 
AT GREENVILLE (Friday DH, 11 a.m.)
The Red Devils will begin their 12th SLIAC schedule Friday in an 11 a.m. doubleheader at East Division foe Greenville.
 
Greenville is 5-8 overall in 2018 and will also be playing its first league contests of the season on Friday. The Panthers had won three in a row in Tucson, Ariz. before Wednesday's 15-4 loss to Washington (Mo.). Last season, GU won the SLIAC East Division and league's double-elimination postseason tournament to qualify for the NCAA Tournament for the second time since 2015. The Panthers were picked to repeat as SLIAC East Division champions in 2018, according to a preseason coaches' poll.
 
The Panthers rank third in the SLIAC with a .301 team batting average. Five players with at least 40 plate appearances hit .309 or better, led by a .380/.431/.520 slash line and a team-high 13 RBI from senior catcher Travis Ralls. The GU pitching staff has a team ERA of 7.00 through 108.0 innings. Junior right-hander Bryce Pearace anchors the starting rotation with a 1-0 record, 3.31 ERA and 9.9 strikeouts per nine innings over three starts. Sophomore righty Austin Rexroad has made a team-high eight relief appearances.
 
Longtime head coach Lynn Carlson is in 22nd season directing the Panthers. The 1993 Greenville graduate has won 457 games was the 2006 SLIAC Coach of the Year.
 
The Panthers own a 28-1 record in 29 bouts between the two schools since 2007, including a 12-0 record in Greenville and an active 24-game win streak overall dating back to April 15, 2009. Eureka's lone win in the series was a 14-12 triumph at Henry Sand Field on May 1, 2008.
 
AT BRADLEY (Saturday, 2 p.m.)
Eureka will make the 20-mile trip down US Route 24 to downtown Peoria Saturday afternoon to visit Bradley at Dozer Park for the sixth time since 2011.
 
The NCAA Division I Braves have opened the campaign with a 12-5 record and have won three of their last four outings. BU will welcome NAIA Robert Morris-Chicago on Friday before the Red Devils come to town Saturday afternoon.
 
Bradley is one of the top hitting teams in the country, ranking 14th in Division I with a team batting average of .314. Six of BU's seven regulars slug .400 or better and Peoria native Luke Mangieri has a .379/.482/.530 line in 17 starts. Sam Lund and Alex Gray both boast 3-0 records and Lund's 2.74 ERA anchors BU's starting rotation. Cole Cook owns or shares the team lead with five starts and 26.1 innings. The Braves have a 4.25 team ERA and limit opposing lineups to a .242 batting average.
 
Elvis Dominguez is in his 10th season coaching the Braves. He guided Bradley to the 2015 NCAA Tournament and won his 400th collegiate game earlier this season.
 
The Braves lead the all-time series, 26-1. With the Braves' ascension to NCAA Division I and the Red Devils suspending their program for nearly four decaces, the two schools did not meet on the diamond between 1938 and 1991. BU has won all eight meetings in the series since Eureka returned its program in 1992, including a 9-7 win in Peoria last season.
 
VS. KNOX (Sunday, 1 p.m.)
Eureka is scheduled to return to Henry Sand Field Sunday for a 1 p.m. start against Knox.
 
Through 10 games, Knox is 3-7 with victories over Beloit, Rutgers-Camden and Thomas (Maine). KC went 2-5 on its six-day trip to the Russ Matt Central Florida Invitational in Winter Haven, Fla.
 
Kobe Shutter hits .393 in eight starts to lead a Knox lineup that has combined for a .279/.377/.409 slash line. Only Matt McCaffrey, who also stars as the Prairie Fire's quarterback on the gridiron, has played in all 10 games. The KC pitching staff has a team ERA of 7.37, led by a 3.68 mark in 7.1 innings from reliever Auggie Ward.
 
The winningest coach in Knox baseball history, Jami Isaacson 24th season as a collegiate head coach and 19th directing the Prairie Fire. The 1992 Knox graduate has won 214 contests with the Prairie Fire and needs seven more victories to reach 300 for his 24-season career.
 
Knox won both games of a home-and-home non-conference series last spring, including a 14-3 victory in Eureka on April 12, 2017. The Prairie Fire has won six of eight against the Red Devils since March 2005.