Baseball vs. UIC | Photos by Stephen Hopkins | The Wright State Guardian
The Raider faced off against the University of Illinois Chicago in a three-game series played at home in Nischwitz Stadium.
All three games were within two runs, yet the Raiders fell on Thursday 6-8 and Saturday 5-6 to the Flames.
The bullpen pitching for WSU struggled throughout the weekend, yet the Raiders’ have hit off the charts recently, leading the Horizon League (HL) in almost every category.
Even after these losses, the Raiders still lead the HL with a conference record of 8-4 and will look to continue their league dominance with a doubleheader versus the NKU Norse on April 23.
Leading the Raiders’ offense is Sophomore Jay Luikart. The utility pitcher not only has the lowest ERA on the team with 2.53 but has been hitting bombs on offense with five home runs in his last five games.
Luikart dominates in every category in hitting for the HL, including first place in runs batted in, first place in slugging percentage, second in on-base plus slugging (OPS), second in home runs, second in total bases, fifth in total hits and fifth in batting average.
Luikart struggled to make contact with the ball early in the season, but after working on his swing with Head Coach Alex Sogard’s staff he has quickly turned into one of the best hitters in the league.
“He’s just seeing the ball well,” Sogard said. “I think he’s getting good pitches to hit, and he’s not missing them. Early on, I thought he was trying to get a little big with his swing, but he’s a very talented hitter, so he doesn’t have to do much.”
Gehrig Anglin, who leads the league in home runs and is third in total bases, and Julian Greenwell, who is third in OPS, also backed up Luikart’s batting success.
With Luikart leading the charge, the Raider batting has averaged 10 runs a game in HL play this season and shows no signs of slowing down.
The saving grace
The one win of the series was a 5-3 pitching duel on Friday as freshman starter Sebastian Gongora only allowed one run in seven innings for the Raiders and WSU took a 5-1 lead heading into the ninth.
“He was a really good start. He dominated throughout, and he has a really good arm,” Sogard said. “He competed and I thought he matched pitch-for-pitch and gave our offense an opportunity to get some things going.”
Tristan Haught and Logan Tabeling were both solid on the mound as well. Haught allowed no runs when he took over in the eighth inning and Tabeling effectively closed out the game 5-3 while just coming off of an injury.
“He’s got as good of stuff as anybody, and he did a great job getting that last out,” Sogard said.
Friday’s game does show that young starters like Gongora can find success and other pitchers out of the bullpen can close out games if needed.