Hilltoppers clash with Rams in battle for first place

By Cody Shook, Sports Editor
Eric Burkle’s red hot Hilltoppers will try to carry over the momentum from the Urbana sweep to this weekend’s Mountain East Conference match-up against Shepherd University. As of April 16, the baseball team is 14-15 overall and 12-8 in conference games this season with three big weekend series left in the season, and the games this weekend are scheduled for this Saturday and Sunday at 1 p.m. and 3:30 p.m., here on the hilltop. 

The Hilltoppers currently find themselves in second place in the Mountain East Conference standings, with the only team above them being the Shepherd Rams. The Rams are 21-12 overall and 16-4 in conference games as of April 16, and they are also riding a series sweep as they took four games from Wheeling Jesuit this past weekend. 
Last season when these two teams faced off, the Hilltoppers traveled down to Shepherdstown, W. Va. and were unable to get a win in the four game series. Losing two out of the four games by just one run, the Hilltoppers will look to be on the other side of the win loss column this year. 
Last weekend, West Liberty traveled to Urbana University and won all four games to jump from third place to second place in the north standings. Two out of the four games were come from behind wins and one of them was a ten run deficit. 
Leading the way for the Hilltoppers is senior second basemen Vincent Haddox, with a .356 batting average and eight home runs coming from the leadoff spot. 
Coach Burkle said, “It’s vital to have a player like Haddox that can start the game with a single or a home run to get the ball rolling.”  
Another player that is coming up big this season is junior left fielder Coby Eckstein, batting a team high .408 and he has also driven in 31 runners with three weeks left in the regular season. 
The Rams are one of three teams to hit the 20-win mark this season. They are led by junior Justin Smith, who is batting .402 with six home runs. The Rams have six guys batting over .300 and they have hit a total of 51 home runs while allowing only 28. Their team batting average is .326 through 33 games. 
The Hilltoppers have a tall task this weekend but they will try to get some revenge from last year’s series. With the games starting at 1 p.m. and 3:30 p.m., the team will expect to have a full crowd cheering them on. Start times are subject to change due to weather. 
If you are unable to make it to the game, follow the team on Twitter for live updates. For more game previews and player profiles, be sure to grab next week’s issue of the Trumpet. 
Photo Credit: Hilltoppersports.com