Skyhawk Baseball begins nine-game homestand this weekend against first-time opponent Valparaiso

 Skyhawk Baseball begins nine-game homestand this weekend against first-time opponent Valparaiso

The 2023 UT Martin home-opening baseball series is this weekend as the Skyhawks take on the Valparaiso Beacons for the first time in school history.

The series opener is Friday at 3:00 (pushed up two hours from the original start time) and is followed by Game 2 on Saturday at 3:00 with the finale scheduled for Sunday at 1:00.

UT Martin appears at Skyhawk Field for the first time this season after splitting a grueling six-game road trip to start the 2023 campaign. Facing a trio of teams that combined for 100 wins a year ago, UT Martin received significant contributions from several different players during Opening Week.

Offensively, Zac Rice (.333), Andrew Fernandez (.333) and Jack Culumovic (.308) are all hitting above .300 with Caleb Hobson (.294) following closely behind. Hobson (five) and Rice (four) rank first and second, respectively, in the OVC in stolen bases, combining to swipe nine out of 10 bags.

Thanks to an OVC-best eight hits, Rice tops the Skyhawks in batting average (.333), runs scored (five) and RBI’s (six). Fernandez’s .611 slugging percentage leads the way while Culumovic’s .438 on-base percentage narrowly edges out Blaze Bell (.435) for the team lead.

On the mound, six different UT Martin hurlers have yet to allow an earned run in 2023. That list is headlined by senior right-hander Seth Petry, who went seven strong innings – tied for the most by any OVC pitcher during Opening Week – while allowing a measly .125 opponent batting average.

Campbell Cleveland has converted both save opportunities while Choyce Diffey has also locked down a save. That pair has not conceded an earned run in six total innings while Colin Millar also hasn’t allowed an earned run over a pair of relief appearances.

Junior left-hander Tristan Walton (1-0, 3.00 ERA) is slated to start Game 1 of this series and will be followed by senior righty Jordan Armstrong (1-0, 3.60) on Saturday. Both are coming off wins at Belmont during the Opening Day doubleheader and will likely be followed by Petry (0-0, 0.00) in the series finale.

Located in Valparaiso, Ind., the Beacons (1-2) are coming off a 16-32 season. Last weekend, Valparaiso played Kansas in a neutral-site series in Corpus Christi, Texas – outscoring the Jayhawks (16-14) but only winning the middle game. Ryan Maka and Nolan Tucker each hit .300 while Kade Reinertson (team-high six RBI’s) and Jake Skrine (two homers) provided the thump in the Beacon lineup.

Valparaiso pitched to 2.88 ERA with 26 strikeouts in 25 innings as a staff. Junior right-hander Griffin McCluskey (0-1, 9.00) is scheduled to start the opener while sophomore righty and current Missouri Valley Conference Pitcher of the Week Connor Lockwood (1-0, 0.00) will likely start Game 2. Junior right-hander Ryan Mintz (0-0, 10.80) is slated to draw the starting assignment on Sunday.

(UTM Sports Information)