By Scott Gierman
CARBONDALE, Ill. – SIU won both ends of a doubleheader over Jacksonville State Saturday afternoon to complete the second consecutive weekend sweep for the Salukis (11-5) and extend their season-best winning streak to four games.
The Salukis’ 30 hits in the twinbill covered up the seven errors they committed on the day en route to a 13-5 win in Game 1 and a 10-5 victory in the finale. With the wins, SIU is off to its best start through 16 games since 2007.
“We swung it well all day and did a lot of good things offensively to overcome a lot of bad things on defense,” SIU Coach Ken Henderson said. “We have to clean that up. We can’t keep doing that and expect to do the things we want to do this year.”
In the third inning of the first game of the day, Chris Serritella’s three-run homer, his fourth of the year, broke a 1-1 tie. Southern piled on four more runs in the fourth to extend the lead to 8-1 and put the game out of reach. Serritella went four-for-four with a double, a home run and four RBI in the first game.
Cameron Maldonado earned the win for the Salukis in Game 1. He allowed three runs off seven hits in seven inning of work. He escaped the first inning with the bases loaded and just one run scored despite throwing 29 pitches and walking three Gamecocks. He gained confidence from there, allowing only two hits over the next three innings.
“Cameron really battled,” Henderson said. “I’ve said that several times this year that we’ve had guys who have gone out there without their best stuff, and he certainly wasn’t extremely sharp today, but suddenly he was into the sixth inning and had held them to three runs. He just battled hard and competed. Our offense did a good job to build up that big lead and make it a little easier for him.”
However, the offense remained hot throughout the day. Luke Mottashed’s two-run double in the second inning tied the game at 2-2, and three batters later, Donny Duschinksy gave the Dawgs a 3-2 lead with an RBI single.
The game remained close until SIU rallied for three runs in the bottom of the eighth to make it look like a lopsided affair.
In his first ever start at Abe Martin Field, Nathan Dorris improved his record to 4-0 in four starts this season. He allowed five runs in six innings of work, however only one of those runs was earned.
“I thought Dorris was pretty sharp today,” Henderson said, “probably more so than he’s been the last couple weeks. We needed those guys. When you’re playing 18 innings in one day, you need your starters to go deep and they did a great job for us.”
Dorris was unfazed by the defense’s struggles.
“Your job as the pitcher is to keep getting ground balls whether they’re fielding them or not,” Dorris said. “There’s going to be days when they’ll have to make tons of plays behind me like at Western Kentucky when they picked me up all over the field. Today just happened to be the day that I picked them up, and that’s how a team works.”
Austin Montgomery was the offensive star for Southern in the second game, recording four hits including a two-run single in the fifth inning. He and Serritella combined to go 11-for-18 and drive in nine runs in the doubleheader.
“It’s huge knowing that they can’t necessarily pitch around me,” Serritella said, “because if they do, they have to face Austin, and he’s been hitting well so that’s been helping me out and helping everybody out.”
The Salukis are now 10-2 in weekend games this season and have won each of their last eight weekend games.
“We’re playing really well on the weekends.” Serritella said. “And I don’t think we’ve played our best baseball yet, but we’re playing pretty well for the most part. We just need to clean some things up defensively. Offensively and on the mound we could still improve. We’re really excited about how we’ve started off, and we just know we still have room to improve.”
Henderson also acknowledged there is still work to be done.
“You love to win,” Henderson said. “That’s what it’s all about at the end of the day, to win games, but I know long term we need to clean some things up if we’re going to do what we want to do this season. That’s the frustrating thing, but I told our kids, I don’t want to diminish the fact that sweeping someone is hard. That’s a good team, and I have a great deal of respect for their coach so for us to sweep them is huge for us. We’re playing well at home and protecting our home field, and that’s what you should do.”