Eagles open OVC Championship vs. EIU


EVANSVILLE, Ind. – University of Southern Indiana Baseball begins its first Ohio Valley Conference Championship action Wednesday when it takes on Eastern Illinois University in the first round at Mt. Dew Park in Marion, Illinois. Game time is set for 9 a.m.
The OVC Championship runs May 24-27 with single-elimination games Wednesday and double-elimination games Thursday through Saturday. Mt. Dew Park opened in 2007 was previously known as Rent One Park. It is now home to the Prospect League’s Thrillville Thrillbillies, who begin play at the end of May. The OVC Championship has been held at the venue once previously (2019).
The Screaming Eagles (17-37, 8-15) open OVC postseason play as the eighth seed after clinching the final spot in the tournament on the final day of the regular season. USI captured its second OVC series of the season by taking two of three games from Tennessee Tech University.
The Screaming Eagles’ first opponent in a NCAA Division I post-season is the Panthers of EIU. USI took the series in April, taking two of games (W 26-6; L 12-22; W 15-8) and scoring 53 runs in the three contests.
EIU (33-18, 13-11 OVC) enters the post-season on a seven-game winning streak and has won11 of 14.
The winner of the USI-EIU contest would advance to play fourth-seeded Southeast Missouri State University (26-29, 14-10 OVC) at 4 p.m. The first two rounds of the OVC Championship on Wednesday (May 24) are single-elimination before the double-elimination portion begins on Thursday (May 25).
In addition to USI, EIU, and SEMO, the OVC Championship field includes top-seeded Morehead State University (34-19, 16-7 OVC); second-seeded University of Arkansas at Little Rock (30-21, 14-8 OVC); third-seeded University of Tennessee at Martin (22-33, 14-10 OVC); sixth-seeded TTU; and seventh-seeded Southern Illinois University Edwardsville (26-27, 9-15 OVC).
The OVC Championship will be streamed live on ESPN+ in addition to being heard on ESPN 97.7FM.
Tickets will be $10 per adult per day and $5 per day for children (12 and under) and college students with valid ID and can be purchased in-person at Mt Dew Park. All seats are general admission for the OVC Championship.

OVC Championship Notes: 
USI clinches postseason berth on final day: The USI Screaming Eagles clinched a berth in the OVC Championship on the final day of the 2023 regular season with an 8-6 victory over Tennessee Tech University.

Eagles win second OVC series of the season. USI won its second OVC series of the season, taking two of three from Tennessee Tech over the weekend. The Eagles won their first OVC series in April, taking two of three from Eastern Illinois University. Overall, USI won four total series (vs. Western Illinois University, 3-1; vs. Bellarmine University, 2-1; vs. EIU, 2-1; and vs. TTU, 2-1) during the 2023 campaign.

USI splits final week. USI was 2-2 during the last week of the regular season, falling to Ball State University to start the week, before taking two-of-three from TTU. Senior catcher/infielder Lucas McNew led the Eagles by hitting .400 (6-15), while junior outfielder Ren Tachioka drove in a team-best five RBIs.

Eagles looking for the bounce: USI, which snapped a nine-game losing streak over the weekend at TTU, is looking for the same bounce it had in March after ending a losing streak. The Eagles went 7-7 following an 11-game losing streak in March, including a season-best tying three-game winning streak.

Leading hitters: Junior first baseman Tucker Ebest leads the Eagles with a .321 average, 12 home runs, and 51 RBIs this spring. Ebest is followed by junior outfielder Drew Taylor and senior outfielder Evan Kahre, who are hitting .306 and .304, respectively.  

USI at neutral site in 2023: The Eagles are 3-1 at a neutral site this season, taking the opening series from Western Illinois University, 3-1. USI was led during the opening weekend by freshman infielder Caleb Niehaus, who batted .500 (4-8) with four runs scored, two home runs, and five RBIs.   

Last 10 games: Junior outfielder Ren Tachioka is the leading USI hitters over the last 10 games, batting .324 with nine RBIs.

Versus the OVC: Junior catcher/designated hitter Parker Stroh has a team-best .388 batting average and five RBIs in OVC play. Junior first baseman Tucker Ebest follows with a .377 average and a team-best five home runs, while senior catcher/infielder Lucas McNew has driven in a team-high 22 runs in conference play.

Among the OVC leaders: Junior first baseman Tucker Ebest is fourth in the OVC in RBIs and third in RBIs per game (1.08). Sophomore shortstop Ricardo Van Grieken is third in the league in on-base percentage (.475).

Van Grieken gets hit for record. Sophomore shortstop Ricardo Van Grieken has been hit by a pitch in a season more than any other Eagle, getting hit 24 times this season. The mark of 20 was previously held by Wes Fink (2008) and Nick Gobert (2018).

McNew climbing the USI All-Time charts: Senior catcher/infielder Lucas McNew is fifth all-time at USI in home runs (25); fifth in RBIs (170) and sixth in doubles (51).

Tachioka getting on base: Junior outfielder Ren Tachioka has reached base in 20 consecutive games and is batting .368 (28-76) with 18 runs scored, 15 RBIs, and six stolen bases.

The last 20 USI games: USI is 8-12 in the last 20 games, 6-6 in OVC contests. The Eagles are hitting .295 as a team during the 20 games, 28 points higher than the season average (.267). Senior catcher/infielder Lucas McNew is batting .400 during the last 20 with 23 RBIs, while junior first baseman Tucker Ebest follows with a .370 average and 23 RBIs.  

Ciuffetelli becomes leader on the mound: Junior left-hander Blake Ciuffetelli is USI’s leader on the mound with three victories. Ciuffetelli started the year as a reliever before becoming a starter the last few weeks.  

Hutson saved the best for last: Sophomore right-hander Tyler Hutson saved one of his best performances of the season when it counted. Hutson broke a seven-game losing streak by getting the win over TTU to get USI into the OVC Championship. He allowed one run on eight hits and two walks, while striking out five in 5.2 innings of work.

McNew plays everywhere: Senior Lucas McNew has played nearly every position on the field during his career at USI. McNew has played catcher, third, first, left field, and right field during his tenure.