CLARKSVILLE - Clarksville native Reed Harper received a rough welcome from his teammates at home plate after his walk-off home run helped Austin Peay State University's baseball team complete a doubleheader sweep of Illinois State, Saturday. The Govs won the opener 2-0 before winning the night cap in come-from-behind fashion, 3-2, at Raymond C. Hand Park.
Harper's blast combined with strong pitching performances in both contests to help Austin Peay open the season with a 3-0 mark. Governors pitching combined to limit Illinois State to two runs on eight hits in the doubleheader.
The night cap did not get started the way the Govs wanted as APSU starter Ryan Quick surrendered a first-inning two-run home run to catcher Matt Mirabal. However, those were the only runs the sophomore transfer would allow. He retired six straight batters at one point before working out of a bases loaded jam in the fourth. Quick would stretch his outing to six innings - allowing two runs and striking out six - before turning the ball over to Lucas Anderson (1-0) who retired the Redbirds in order in the seventh and would pick up the win.
Despite trailing for the first time this season, Austin Peay's offense showed no signs of panic. Third baseman Greg Bachman launched a leadoff home run over the scoreboard in right in the second to halve the Redbirds lead. One inning later, center fielder Michael Blanchard led off with a walk and scored on Harper's RBI single, tying the game.
Austin Peay had opportunities to take the lead in both the fourth and fifth innings. The Govs left a runner in scoring position in the fourth as ISU starter Dylan Craig notched a pair of strikeouts. In the fifth, APSU loaded the bases with two outs, but could not score as ISU reliever Jeremy Rhoades got a strikeout to end the threat. Ultimately it would take until the seventh when Harper sealed the win with his towering drive into left field.
Blanchard was the driving force behind Austin Peay's 2-0 win to start the day. He began the morning with a double to right field. The Govs quickly pounced on the opportunity, as designated hitter Jon Clinard moved Blanchard to third with a sacrifice and Harper brought him home on a ground out.
Two innings later Blanchard struck again, this time lacing the ball to the gap and off the wall in left center. The speedy senior stretched the hit into a triple and Clinard brought him home with a groundout for the Govs second run.
That would be enough offense for Austin Peay's pitching staff. Starter Zach Toney (1-0) picked up his season's first victory. He worked out of a second-inning, bases-loaded jam en route to five scoreless innings, striking out five and allowing four hits. Reliever Mike Hebert tossed a scoreless sixth to set up closer Tyler Rogers who notched his season's second save with a scoreless seventh.
Blanchard finished the opener 3-for-3 with two runs scored, his only hits in the doubleheader. After being held hitless in the opener, Harper was 3-for-4 with two RBI in the night cap. The Govs finished the doubleheader with 12 hits.
Illinois State first baseman Kyle Stanton was the only player to record a hit in each game of the doubleheader, finishing the day 2-for-4. Game one starter Brad Sorkin (0-1) suffered the loss after allowing two run on seven hits over six innings. Game two starter Dylan Craig lasted four innings, allowing two runs on four hits, but did not factor into the decision. Reliever Justin Hauer (0-1) was tagged for the game two loss.
Austin Peay and Illinois State are scheduled to complete their four-game series with a noon, Sunday contest at Raymond C. Hand Park, weather permitting. Austin Peay will turn to senior Andy Cox for the series finale while Illinois State has not settled on a starter.