The University of Evansville baseball team took advantage of four Eastern Illinois errors and got timely hitting late in the game to hold off the Panthers, 7-5, Tuesday night at Braun Stadium for its second-straight win.
Freshman Jonathan Ramon led Evansville (5-9) offensively by driving in three runs and senior Jason Hockemeyer finished 2-for-3 with a triple and three runs scored. On the mound, redshirt junior Sam Johns (1-1) picked up his first win of the year by allowing five runs and striking out five in 7.2 innings of work. Senior Jake Naumann recorded his third save of the year and struck out three of the four hitters he faced over the final 1.1 innings.
"It was nice to start off our homestand with a win," said head coach Wes Carroll. "I think jumping out to an early lead really helped us. I thought Sam (Johns) did a great job in the sixth of getting two big strikeouts to shut down the situational hitting and shut down their momentum."
The Purple Aces took an early 4-0 lead in their half of the first, as EIU committed four errors in frame behind its starter Jake Johansmeier. Redshirt sophomore Kevin Kaczmarski reached on an error to start the inning and was safe at second when the Eastern Illinois shortstop failed to secure the ball on a toss from the second baseman that would have retired Kaczmarski on a ground ball off the bat of junior Jake Mahon. Redshirt junior Johnny Day loaded the bases with a soft single to center and sophomore Kyle Pollock followed with an RBI single that plated Kaczmarski. Hockemeyer drove in Evansville's second run with an RBI groundout, before Ramon tallied his first RBI of the night by plating Day with a groundout to second.
EIU quickly responded by scoring three runs in the top of the second, getting a two-run single from John DeVito and a run-scoring single from Nathan Sopena, to cut the Aces' lead to 4-3 after two complete innings.
UE widened the gap in its half of the third, when Pollock led off the inning with a single and later scored on a wild pitch, and Ramon picked up his second RBI by bringing Hockemeyer around to score with a single to center to push Evansville's lead to 6-3.
Eastern Illinois added a run on a solo home run by Tyler Schweigert in the fourth and tacked on another run in sixth to trim the Aces' advantage back to one run at 6-5.
Ramon gave UE a bit more cushion in the seventh, when he drove in Hockemeyer from third on a sacrifice fly to shallow right to double Evansville's lead.
With two outs in the eight, the Panthers put the tying run in scoring position on two Aces' errors, but Naumann was able to end the threat with a strikeout and retire EIU in order in the ninth to seal the win.
"To see us scratch across a run with good situational hitting, with Chris Pearson getting a hit in a hit-and-run situation, and Ramon getting a sacrifice fly was key," Carroll said. "It was also great to see Jake (Naumann) go out there and do what he does best by getting some big strikeouts for us to shut them down and build confidence."
UE will be back on the diamond tomorrow night at 6 p.m., when it hosts Oakland City for a 6 p.m. game. Senior Ryan Billo is the scheduled starter for Evansville, while the Mighty Oaks are slated to send Trent Benningfield to the mound.
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