The Eastern Michigan University baseball team began its Mid-American Conference campaign on Friday, March 10, when the Eagles met the University of Akron Zips for a three-game series on Skeeles Field in Akron, Ohio. The Eagles (8-5, 2-1 MAC) won their fifth and sixth consecutive games on Friday and Saturday before seeing the win streak snapped on Sunday when the team dropped a tough battle to the Zips (5-9, 2-1 MAC) in extra innings.
Despite the setback to end the weekend, EMU picked up a series win to start conference play for the first time since the 2017 season and has won six of it’s last seven games.
Leading the offense for the Eagles was graduate student, Matt Kirk, as the 2022 MAC Player of the Year continues to impress in his encore season. Kirk produced two doubles and two runs batted in during five hits on 13 trips to the plate of the weekend (.385). Kirk’s performance was highlighted by two home runs in Saturday’s 8-3 victory over the Zips.
Additionally, junior Cory Taylor continued his offensive emergence while adding two more home runs, a double, and five RBIs on four total hits in 10 at-bats (.400).
The series was relatively competitive from start to finish and game one was no exception. EMU had to score runs in seven different innings, to secure an 8-7 victory over Akron where the Eagles needed all the offense available. Sophomore Josh Kross paced the Eagles’ bats, going two for five at the plate while producing a home run, a double, and two RBIs. Both Kross and Taylor hit home runs during their first trips to the plate.
Senior right-handed pitcher Luke Russo picked up his third win of the season coming out of the bullpen. Russo threw 3.2 innings, giving up two earned runs on three hits and two walks while striking out six, including three in the ninth to protect the victory for his team.
Game two was all Eagles as EMU would score early and often to coast to an 8-3 win over Akron on Saturday.
Right-handed junior Adam Falinski got the start and the win for the Eagles as he struck out four Zips while giving up two earned runs off three hits and four walks. Junior Bobby Jones put together a solid performance from the mound as well, striking out three Akron batters while allowing only one earned run on four hits and no walks.
Kirk provided the offense, producing his first multi-home run outing of 2023, on three hits during his five at-bats he also batted three runners. Taylor matched Kirk’s offensive production with one swing of the bat as a three-run blast helped the Eagles to a 4-0 lead. That home run was sandwiched between two Kirk home runs in the first and second innings that ultimately gave EMU a 6-0 cushion.
The Zips would score three runs from the fourth to sixth innings before the Eagles padded the lead with two more runs in the seventh and cruised to the 8-3 win.
Game three saw the six-game win streak for EMU grind to a halt after a comeback effort helped the Eagles tie the game 4-4 and force extra innings, but ultimately falling short in the tenth frame, 6-5, as the Zips avoided the series sweep.
Junior right-handed pitcher Nick Chittum got the nod to start and was the overall standout player for the Eagles in Sunday’s series finale. Chittum struck out a 2023 team-best eight batters in 5.1 innings pitched while giving up two runs on four hits and two walks.
Offensively, EMU was led by Taylor while he went a perfect two for two at the plate and produced a double and an RBI.
Up next, the Eagles will continue on its MAC slate with a return home for an intrastate conference series with rival Western Michigan University. The first pitch of the three-game series is set for Friday, March 17, at 3:05 p.m. in Robert J. Bobb Stadium at Hyames field.
For more information on the Eastern Michigan baseball team, you can listen to "TheBlockE Podcast" weekly for updates on all Eastern Michigan University Athletics.