With snow forcing the relocation of the Jayhawk Classic, Eastern Michigan University and the Kansas University Jayhawks traveled to a neutral site in Grand Prairie, Texas for a four-game series.
Friday marked game one of the series, where the Eagles won their second game of the year after strong performances by senior pitcher Neil Butara (1-2) and right fielder Sam Ott.
Butara had a stellar outing on the hill, as he went seven innings, giving up seven hits, one run, walked one and struck out five.
Being down 1-0 in the fourth, Ott smacked a two-run home run into right field, putting the Eagles ahead 2-1.
The Eagles added a pair of insurance runs in the seventh with two men out.
After left fielder Jamie Simpson popped out and first baseman Mitchell McGeein struck out, infielders Miles Sorise and Marquise Gill both got on and advanced to second and third after a passed ball. Leadoff hitter Daniel Russell was intentionally walked to set up the potential force out at any base.
However, EMU shortstop John Rubino came through with a single down the third base side for two RBIs. After the Jayhawks made a pitching change, a wild pitch followed by a single from Ott gave EMU two more runs, bringing the Eagles ahead 6-1.
EMU freshman Devon Bronson came in to relieve Butara in the eighth.
Bronson surrendered one run in the eighth, then allowed the first two batters on in the ninth. Senior Joe Battistelli then came into the game, gave up a pair of runs but still closed it out to earn his second save of the season.
Games two and three were held on Saturday with a doubleheader. Nine innings weren’t enough to settle the first game, but the EMU bats were silenced in the second.
Brian Hill, a Tommy John surgery survivor, got the start on the hill for the morning game. After a four-inning nightmare at Washington State, Hill came back with a strong six innings of work against the Jayhawks.
Holding KU down enough to take a 3-1 lead through the sixth and a Jayhawk ground-rule double to start the seventh, Hill gave up two runs (both earned), one walk, hit one batter while striking out seven, before being relieved by Brian Valente.
Simpson, who started in left and then moved to first base in the ninth, got the Eagles on the board first in the second inning after finding a gap in left center, bringing Adam Sonabend in to score.
With KU tying it up at one run each in the fifth, Ott immediately came back with a two RBI single in the sixth, to give the Eagles their 3-1 lead.
Valente came into the game in the bottom of the seventh with a runner on second and no outs, giving up three singles and a sacrifice fly, the Jayhawks came back with a 4-3 lead.
Russell walked with the bases loaded to tie it up in the ninth at four a piece. A few defensive shifts and Battistelli (0-2) coming in to pitch a pair of strikeouts, this game went into extra innings.
The Eagles couldn’t get anything going in the top of the tenth offensively, and Battistelli wasn’t doing any better. With one out, he let a pair of runners on after walking one and hitting the next. An error by Sonabend led to KU’s winning run across the plate.
The final score after ten innings was 5-4, Kansas.
The Jayhawks got an immediate 2-0 lead in the afternoon game, off of Eagle sophomore pitcher Ryan Lavoie (0-2).
After only getting one hit through three innings, KU rallied in the fourth to extend their lead. With EMU’s Michael Marsinek in to relieve, the Jayhawks jumped to a 6-0 lead. Lavoie, who got saddled with the loss, tossed 3.1 innings, giving up five earned runs, walking four batters and only one strikeout.
Marsinek gave up two more runs through the sixth, before junior Zane Birchler came in to pitch the eighth and didn’t give up any more runs.
Outside of scoring eight runs off ten hits, the Jayhawks best performance was on the hill. Senior pitcher Thomas Taylor (1-0) threw his first complete shutout game of his college career.
The series finale between the Eagles (2-7) and Jayhawks (6-4) is set to start on Sunday at 11 a.m. Central Standard Time. Be sure to check The Eastern Echo website to find out how things get wrapped up down in Grand Prairie.