Feb. 19, 2005
By Jeff Honza
NEW ORLEANS, La. - Southern Illinois (3-2) scored three runs in the first inning and four in the ninth to put away the University of New Orleans (1-4), 8-1, earlier today at Maestri Field. The win marked SIU's third straight, as the Salukis took a 2-0 series lead.
UNO starting right-hander Michael Jones gave up six hits over his first three innings, but retired 12 consecutive SIU hitters, as the Salukis didn't get another hit until the seventh inning.
Then, after redshirt freshman left-hander Jeff Zschiedrich relieved Jones in the eighth, the Dawgs exploded in the ninth.
Holding a three-run lead (4-1), SIU used three straight run scoring hits with two outs in the ninth to blow the game wide open. Freshman Tyler Lairson delivered a RBI-single to right, Kevin Koski drove in a run on an infield single and Nathan Emrick belted a two-RBI double to left center.
"I thought over the course of the game we did a great job offensively with two strikes and two outs," said Saluki head coach Dan Callahan. "Not to mention, P.J. had a quality start and our bullpen did another fine job."
SIU, who went its first four games without scoring a run in the first inning, opened up with a three-run, three-hit rally, as two of the Salukis' tallies came unearned thanks to a pair of UNO errors.
Another UNO miscue helped SIU extend its lead to 4-0 in the third.
McCulloch reached on a one-out error by shortstop Nate Murray and went to second on a bunt single by Gerrard. Erik Alvarez's two-out double down the left field line knocked in McCulloch.
Alvarez's double ended up being the Salukis' last hit until the seventh inning, as Jones limited SIU to only one in four scoreless innings.
Meanwhile, Saluki right-hander P.J. Finigan appeared to be showing signs of fatigue in the sixth and seventh, but continued to battle.
UNO had runners on first and second with one out in the sixth, but Finigan escaped the jam when six-hole hitter Paul Smyth flied out to center and seven-hole hitter Ryan Meyer grounded out to second.
Like the sixth, the Privateers also had something cooking with one out in the seventh. After Murray doubled and Josh Jones was hit by a pitch, Finigan threw a pair of wild pitches, and Murray scored.
Despite the threat, Finigan kept his poise and beared down to get Mike Constantino out on a pop up to first, before posting a big strikeout against cleanup hitter Tony Gonzalez.
"I felt pretty strong, even towards the end," said Finigan. "My fastball worked well for me. As the game progressed, I started to get some good off-speed pitches in addition to my fastball."
UNO threatened one more time in the eighth after a single and two Saluki errors gave the Privateers runners at first and second with no outs, but this time, SIU's bullpen stepped up, as relief left-hander Tyler Norrick struck out three in a row to quiet the rally.
Finigan (1-0) picked up his first win of the season. He gave up six hits and one run, while striking out four in seven strong innings. Today's outing marked the longest of Finigan's career.
In addition to Norrick, Mark Obszanski also pitched well for the Salukis out of the pen. A transfer from Kaskaskia Community College, Obszanski sat the Privateers down in order in the bottom of the ninth.
Jones fell to 0-2 after allowing four runs and seven hits in seven innings. Only one of Jones' runs were earned, as he also struck out five.
SIU's one through four hitters combined for seven of the Salukis' 13 hits on the day.
Koski went 3-for-5 with two runs scored and a RBI, while two-hole hitter Emrick and cleanup hitter Gerrard followed with two hits each.
Koski, who registered multiple-hits in four of his first five games, is off to an impressive start as the Dawgs' lead off man. Hitting .500 (11-for-22) on the young season, he has nine more hits than he had at this time a year ago.
"I'm trying to get on base any way I can," said Koski. "That's my job as a lead off hitter."
Alvarez and Brewer also had two hits for SIU.
As for UNO, six Privateers had one hit apiece.
SIU wraps up its series against UNO tomorrow. Due to the Salukis having to catch an early flight, Sunday's first pitch was changed from 1 p.m., to 12:30 p.m.