MURRAY, Ky. – Junior left-hander Shane Grimm pitched eight superb innings as the Eastern Kentucky University baseball team finished off the sweep of host Murray State on Saturday, 7-1, to earn a share of its first Ohio Valley Conference regular season title since 2000.
EKU (31-21, 19-7 OVC) won its final seven and 10 of its final 11 conference games to earn a share of the OVC crown. The Colonels’ 19 conference wins are the most in school history.
EKU will share this season’s OVC title with Austin Peay (34-21, 19-7 OVC), which defeated Tennessee Tech, 10-4, on Saturday to remain tied with the Colonels atop the conference standings. APSU owns the tiebreaker over EKU and will enter next week’s OVC Tournament as the No. 1 seed.
EKU will be the No. 2 seed and will receive a coveted first-round bye. The Colonels will open postseason play on Thursday at 4:00 p.m. Their opponent will be determined on Wednesday.
Grimm (6-4) was sharp all afternoon, going eight innings and allowing just one run on four hits while striking out three batters to deliver the championship. With the win, Grimm improved to a perfect 5-0 during conference play.
Junior right-hander Anthony Bazzani came on in the bottom of the ninth inning and sealed the win, striking out Noah Zipko swinging to end the game and ignite the celebration in the infield.
Grimm was on top of his game, but he also received help from his defense, particularly senior second baseman Dustin Dunlop. After an RBI base hit by senior Jacob Daniel in the top of the fifth broke a scoreless tie and spurred the Colonels to a 2-0 lead, MSU threatened in the bottom of the sixth as Ty Stetson ripped a two-out double and scored when Travis Isaak laced a single through the left side and advanced to second on the throw. The next batter, senior Jacob Rhodes, then ripped a ball to the right side that would have scored Isaak from second and tied the game, but Dunlop made a diving stop on the ball and threw Rhodes out at first to end the inning.
Two frames later, EKU blew the game open as the Colonels loaded the bases with one out in the top of the eighth. The next batter, junior pinch hitter Alex Hughes, was hit by the first pitch he saw, scoring senior A.J. Jamison from third and making the score 3-1. Sophomore Sean Hagen then delivered a two-run single through the right side of the infield, plating Dunlop and fellow senior Michael Garcia. Junior Matt Phipps, who replaced an injured Bryan Soloman in the starting lineup an hour before first pitch, concluded the scoring in the inning when he laid down a perfect squeeze bunt that scored Hughes and made it 6-1.
EKU added one more run in the top of the ninth on an RBI single by Jamison, before Bazzani came on and sealed the victory with a dominant performance in the bottom of the inning.
Visit www.ekusports.com next week for more information on EKU’s trip to Jackson, Tenn. The Colonels will be seeking their first OVC Tournament title since 1989.