Two losses in a doubleheader on Friday at Bellarmine (8-7 in game one being the worst since Bellarmine won in the bottom of the
ninth 10th inning, then falling 7-4 in game two) have put the USI baseball team in an extremely difficult spot. It absolutely must win its next two games to have even the slimmest chance of making the GLVC tournament in Evansville next week. If one or both of those games — one on Saturday and one on Sunday — are rained out, they won’t be made up, which would be as bad as a loss (or two losses).
Poor pitching and poor fielding — which had been strengths — doomed the Eagles in Friday’s opener. No. 1 starter Ben Wright was lit up for seven runs, four of them earned, and nine hits over 5 2/3 innings while Brandon Shaw, one of the team’s best relievers, took the loss. Meanwhile, USI committed three errors. In the second game, starter David Toth was hammered for six runs on nine hits in just 3 1/3 innings.
But this is more than just two games. The Eagles have only themselves to blame. Despite a late-season run of six consecutive conference victories (before Friday, of course), a slump in March when they lost nine of 10 games now looks devastating. The worst was being swept in back-to-back doubleheaders by Missouri S&T March 22-23 at the USI Baseball Field. Those put the Eagles on the wrong side of a series of tiebreakers that they probably won’t be able to overcome.
USI’s only hope if they don’t get in the GLVC tournament is a slim chance of still making the NCAA tournament. The Eagles were ranked third in the Midwest Region this week and eight teams are selected for the regional. But I don’t think what happened today will help their chances.
UPDATE: Ray Simmons, USI’s sports information director, sent out a list of possibilities for making the GLVC tournament depending on what the Eagles do over the next two days. Here’s the entire release:
USI and Bellarmine are slated to finish the regular season and the four-game series with 11 a.m. CDT single games on Saturday and Sunday. The Eagles need a pair of victories in the final two games, plus the University of Indianapolis to lose three games in the four-game series with Lewis University, and/or Maryville University to split its four-game series with the University of Illinois Springfield, and/or Missouri University of Science & Technology to lose all four games in its series with Rockhurst University.
No, it doesn’t look good for USI.