JACKSON, Tenn. – The Morehead State baseball offense pounded 18 hits and jumped to a 6-0 lead after three innings en route to an 11-6 win over SIU Edwardsville in the Ohio Valley Conference Tournament opening round Wednesday at the Ballpark at Jackson.
The fifth-seeded Eagles (29-26) claimed their first OVC Tournament contest since 2009 and now sit only two wins shy of tying the program record for wins. The Cougars (21-32) were playing their first conference tournament game in their second year eligible.
Morehead State will play No. 2 Tennessee Tech at 4 p.m. ET in the winner's bracket Thursday. No. 6 seeded Eastern Illinois upset No. 3 Jacksonville State, sending EIU into a game versus No. 1 Southeast Missouri ay 8 p.m. Thursday.
Senior designated hitter Bobby Burns tied the team's season-best for a hitting streak with four today. Burns, who was 4-for-6 with a double and three RBI, has now hit in the last 18 games and 30 of the last 31. Junior right fielder Brandon Rawe and junior left fielder Blaine Tanner nailed three hits apiece, while junior first baseman Kane Sweeney, junior second baseman Tyler Bigler and freshman center fielder Ryan Kent produced two hits.
"We kind of just did what we have been doing all year," Head coach Mike McGuire. "We have a lot of confidence in our offense, and we were able to only use two pitchers today as well, which helps our depth."
Rawe, who continues to lead the conference in hits, upped his season total to 97. He also has 30 multi-hit games this year. He had an 18-game hitting streak earlier this season.
Freshman Luke Humphreys, pitching in front of a large contingent of fans from his hometown of Dickson, Tenn. – located 1.5 hours east of Jackson, picked up the win. Humphreys (5-2) tossed the first five frames and surrendered just four hits and three earned runs. Sophomore Matt Ellenbest pitched the final four innings, allowed only two runs, and collected his second career save.
MSU scored three times in the first, once in the second to build its 6-0 lead. The Cougars got a three-run triple in the third to trim the Eagle lead in half, but the Eagles also plated four in the fifth to grab a 10-4 advantage.
"Everyone wants to be the home team so you can bat last, but I thought for us, it wasn't all that bad to be the visitor today," McGuire added. "We don't have a lot of tournament experience on our roster, and SIUE doesn't either, so I felt it was important for us to come out strong and get some jitters out early. We scored early and got some confidence, and that helped Luke settle in too."
SIUE catcher Zach Little was 2-for-2 at the plate, but no other Cougar hitters registered more than one hit.
MSU knocked SIUE starting pitcher Jarrett Bednar out of the game after just 1.1 innings. He gave up five hits and four runs. Three Cougar relievers surrendered the final seven runs. Brett Thomas only allowed one score in 4.2 innings.