BASEBALL: Tough season may not get easier

Amber North

The bats were swung, but all that got hit was air. To compound the problem Illinois and Mississippi State kept smacking balls all over the field, and the Hilltoppers could do nothing but watch.

At the Mississippi Challenge, Western was blanked in the three-game series over the weekend, losing Friday to Illinois 4-0 in the first game.

Following the Illinois game, Western faced up with host MSU and lost 12-0. Saturday the Tops had a rematch with the Fighting Illini, only to lose to them again 10-0.

“Obviously, if you don’t score in three games you’ve got problems,” coach Joel Murrie said. “We were overmatched in all stages of the game.”

The first game with Illinois (2-2) was the trailblazer to a tough break in the challenge. The Toppers (3-6) only had two hits in the game, one from senior second baseman Matt Johnston in the sixth inning and another from sophomore center fielder Matt Ransdell.

The second half of Friday’s doubleheader did not make it better when Western faced then No. 29 Bulldogs.

By the fourth inning the Bulldogs (3-0) had scored nine runs, including a five-run third inning. The Toppers put runners on first and second bases but failed to bring them home.

“We didn’t do anything right,” Johnston said. “People were in scoring position but we weren’t getting them in.”

Sophomore third baseman Tim Grogan led the way going 3-4, pushing his batting average to .382.

Illinois sealed the sweep Saturday, but fell twice to MSU, who jumped five spots to No. 24.

The Tops will try to erase their three-game skid when they head to Nashville tomorrow to play Vanderbilt. The game was originally scheduled to be at Denes Field, but a scheduling conflict at Vanderbilt forced the teams to swap home games.

The Commodores have had a great start winning their first seven games of the season. They were picked to finish third in the Southeastern Conference East division, two spots behind perennial SEC champs Louisiana State.

“The schedule is not going to get any easier,” Murrie said. “It’s just another burden we have to swallow. If anything, our lack of success contributes to my eagerness of wanting to play great teams.”

Reach Amber North at [email protected]