CLARKSVILLE - Austin Peay State University's baseball team took advantage of a key error for a six-run sixth inning to post an Ohio Valley Conference-opening 11-3 victory against Eastern Illinois, Friday afternoon, at Coaches Stadium.
Austin Peay (16-2, 1-0 OVC) ran its win streak to a season-best eight games. The Govs also improved on their best-ever start to a season, topping a 14-4 start to the 1996 campaign.
Eastern Illinois (3-13, 0-4 OVC) was determined to open the home portion of its schedule on a positive note and jumped out early on Austin Peay. The Panthers struck for one run each in the second, third and fourth innings to build a 3-1 lead.
Austin Peay (16-2, 1-0 OVC) tied the game in the fifth inning, but could have made bigger things out of the inning as three runners cut down on the base paths. Instead, APSU settled for two runs and the tie as right fielder Rolando Gautier brought home a run when he reached on an error and first baseman Craig Massoni singled in a run, tying the game 3-3.
The Govs did not let opportunity pass twice. The Panthers opened the door when designated hitter Kyle Schlatter reached on an error by the third baseman with one out in the sixth and left fielder Cody Hudson scampered home, giving the Govs the lead for good.
Austin Peay continued to push and loaded the bases with center fielder Dylan Riner's walk and Gautier's infield single, both with two out. Third baseman Kevin Corey pushed home a run with his bases-loaded walk, extending the lead to two runs. Second baseman Jordan Hankins broke the game open with a two-run single and Massoni hammered home the point with his two-run double, giving APSU a 9-3 lead.
Govs starter Lee Ridenhour (3-0) didn't get off to a great start, allowing three runs on five hits through four innings. But once handed the 9-3 lead he shut the door, retiring nine of the 11 batters he faced after gaining the lead. He picked up the win after scattering nine hits over eight innings, striking out eight. Reliever Tommy Hager added a pair of strikeouts in a scoreless ninth inning of work.
Massoni saw his hitless streak hit 15 at-bats before ending the game with an RBI single in the fifth, the two-run double in the sixth and a two-run home run in the ninth. He finished the day 3-for-5 with five RBI.
Hankins added a 2-for-3, two RBI outing - one of four Govs to record two hits on the day - and Austin Peay rapped out 14 hits in the conference opener.
EIU starter Matt Borens (0-3) suffered the loss after allowing six runs (two earned) on seven hits and four walks over 5.2 innings. Second baseman Nathan Sopena went 3-for-4 at the plate to lead the Panthers nine-hit outing.
Austin Peay and Eastern Illinois continue their three-game series with a 1 p.m., Saturday contest.