It is officially “go” time for the Purple Aces baseball team. With ten Missouri Valley Conference schools in most sports, it Is a continuous grind from start to finish. Baseball is a bit of a different story as eight schools participate, giving you just seven conference series.
With those limited opportunities, it makes every conference series absolutely pivotal. Three weeks ago, Evansville welcomed Indiana State to Braun Stadium. The Sycamores came into that weekend sporting a 14-3 record, but the Aces took care of business, winning two out of three games. With that series win, the Aces are tied atop the MVC with Dallas Baptist in the loss column. The Patriots are 5-1 in their opening six games of league play.
Something that can prove to be advantageous for the Aces is the fact that they have been able to play more games prior to the grind of league play. With the winter in Evansville comprised of snow – and lots of it, the team did not get as much time playing outside as they would have liked. Being able to play a few more series allows everyone to get in that groove.
Since that series versus the Sycamores, the Aces have gone 6-3 and stand at 20-11 on the season. Included in that stretch was an impressive series at Charlotte that saw UE win three out of four games. Anytime you can take three out of four on the road, it is an impressive feat. While six straight weekend of league play is a pivotal stretch, the next two weekends will set the tone moving forward.
Wichita State comes to the Braun with an even 16-16 mark in head coach Todd Butler’s inaugural season. As of late, the squad has struggled, falling in its last six games with three of those losses coming at Indiana State last weekend. Talk about being on the road, the Shockers have done just that over the last ten days. This weekend marks the fifth road trip in that stretch. Road games at Kansas, Indiana State, Kansas State and Oral Roberts started that off before yesterday’s trip to Evansville. That is a total of over 2,740 miles!
As a baseball purist, I cannot wait for tonight’s matchup pitting two of the top collegiate prospects in the nation – Kyle Freeland and Casey Gillaspie. Both played in the Cape Cod League last summer and garnered Baseball America Preseason All-America honors following their performances. We all know about Freeland, but lets take a look at Gillaspie. The No. 2 hitter in the league has racked up a .393 batting average while belting an MVC-best 9 home runs. The first baseman has also done a great job of getting on base, ranking amongst the conference leaders at 49.7%. Throw in a .697 slugging mark and 25 walks and you have a true force at the plate.
The matchup tonight will be a thrilling one when Freeland and Gillaspie square off. Freeland has pitched his way to a 2.02 ERA in 49 innings of work. He has walked just four batters while striking out 60, that is an unbelievable 15/1 strikeout-to-walk ratio.
Weather predictions for the weekend look great! Come on out and support the squad as they embark on six weeks of league play. Next week, we will preview the trip to Dallas Baptist. The newcomers to the league have gotten off to a 5-1 start. We will set the stage for next week’s series in Texas.