By Cody Shook, Sports Editor
The future of the 2018 West Liberty baseball team is determined this weekend, as they will take on rival Wheeling Jesuit in a four game series. Eric Burkle’s Hilltoppers are 18-24 overall and 15-13 in the conference this season and they will be going into the weekend tied for second place with Fairmont State University in the north division of the Mountain East Conference standings.
On Saturday, the games will be on the hilltop starting at 2:30 p.m. and 5 p.m. The next games will be on Sunday, at Wheeling Jesuit’s field, starting at 1 p.m. and 3:30 p.m.
Only the top three teams in each division are eligible to go to Beckley, W.Va. for the conference tournament and right now the playoff race is neck and neck in the north and the south. Shepherd University has a commanding lead in the north, but second through fourth place is separated by one game and come next Sunday night, one team’s season will be over.
Last weekend, the Hilltoppers traveled to Fairmont, W. Va., where they won three games in a four game series against the Fairmont State Fighting Falcons. Going into the weekend, the Hilltoppers were in fourth place and down two games to the Falcons.
Winning both games on Saturday evened both teams’ conference records and splitting a doubleheader on Sunday didn’t change their rankings. The Hilltoppers were on a seven game losing streak going into the weekend, but the bats heated up and propelled West Liberty to a huge conference weekend.
This weekend is the regular season finale and it will also be senior day on the Hilltop and for six seniors, it will be the last time that they put the uniform on and step onto Kovalick Field.
Justin Retzer and Trevor Stewart are both fifth year senior pitchers and they are doing everything it takes to make sure this weekend’s games aren’t their last.
Against Fairmont State, Retzer threw a seven inning complete game while only allowing two runs to score and striking out ten batters. The other seniors that are looking to continue their season are also making an impact as Nolan Marcus, Ethan Estes, Vincent Haddox and Justice Jackson are all starters and having fantastic years.
A player to watch for on West Liberty’s roster is junior pitcher Parker Dyson, who is a tall lefty who has struck out a team high 67 batters in just 53 innings pitched.
Another guy to watch for is hard hitting left fielder, Coby Eckstein. Eckstein is batting over .400 on the season with 51 hits, eight home runs and 41 runs batted in. The Hilltoppers will need these guys to step up big if they want to get their playoff hopes alive.
Wheeling Jesuit University has had a down year to this point with an overall record of 6-32 and a conference record of 5-23. When these two teams face off, it’s always a battle no matter who is having a good year and who is having a bad year.
There is always a sense of intensity in the air when these two teams meet. Last season, the Hilltoppers were fortunate enough to get the four game sweep and clinch the number two seed going into the conference tournament. The Hilltoppers will look for similar success this season.
This weekend’s games will start at 2:30 p.m. and 5 p.m. on Saturday and 1 p.m. and 3:30 Sunday afternoon.
To follow the baseball team the rest of the year, be sure to follow them on Twitter.
Photo Credit: Hilltoppersports.com