Salukis get back on track with doubleheader sweep of Illinois Saturday

    Todd Eaton earned the first Saluki win at Itchy Jones Stadium.

    Todd Eaton earned the first Saluki win at Itchy Jones Stadium.
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    March 15, 2014

    Game 1 Box ScoreGame 2 Box Score |  Photo Gallery 

    By Scott Gierman 

    CARBONDALE, Ill. – Southern Illinois snapped a five-game losing streak and picked up its first two wins at its new ballpark by sweeping a doubleheader from Illinois Saturday afternoon at Itchy Jones Stadium. The Salukis (10-8) overcame an early deficit for a 6-5 win in the first game and held on late for a 3-2 win over the Fighting Illini (7-9) in the finale.

    “This is a character and toughness day because we were coming off a bad loss yesterday in the opener,” SIU Coach Ken Henderson said. “We’d lost five in a row and gave up four in the first. A lot of clubs would’ve quit right there, but it never happened. Guys stuck with it, played their rear ends off, and good things happened.”

    In the first game of the day, Southern Illinois piled up a season-high 16 hits and took a 6-5 lead with a three-run fourth inning. The go-ahead run came home from third base when Ryan Casillas reached on a two-out fielding error by Illinois freshman second baseman Reid Roper. It came after Ryan Sabo had tied the game when he drove in two runs with his second double of the game to tie it at 5-5.

    Five of SIU’s six runs in the game were driven in with two outs.

    Todd Eaton earned the win for SIU, his first of the season, despite surrendering four runs in the first inning. Three of the four first-inning runs were earned. Eaton recovered to throw five and a third innings. After the first inning, he retired 12 of the next 14 hitters and allowed only one run the rest of the game.

    “Everything was up in the zone in the first inning, but then he settled in and started getting his slider over and getting the ball down in the zone,” Henderson said. “He’s done that every time out and then settled down and given us a chance to win. He was awfully good after that.”

    The Saluki bullpen was solid once again to maintain the lead through the late innings. Kyle Pauly tossed two and two-thirds hitless innings in relief, and Tyler Dray tossed a scoreless ninth to pick up his fourth save in as many chances. The only blemish against Dray was a one-out walk.

    After trailing 4-0 in the first inning, SIU fought back for three runs in the second inning to cut the deficit to 4-3. Donny Duschinsky and Parker Osborne started the inning with a pair of infield singles. After failing to get down a sacrifice bunt, Tyler Rolland singled home Duschinsky for the first run of the inning. Connor Kopach then reached on a fielder’s choice, and Sabo drove in Rolland and Kopach with a two-run double.

    “That was a big hit because we got right back in it,” Henderson said. “If they would’ve thrown up three or four zeroes, and it was still 4-0 in the fourth or fifth, you’d start having doubts. To get right back in it in the second inning was big for us, and it set the tone for the rest of the day.”

    Kopach helped save the day when Illinois loaded up the bases with one out in the sixth, and he turned a difficult double play to end the inning.

    “Kopach’s defense today might’ve been the highlight of the day,” Henderson said. “He made some big time plays.”

    Illinois starter Ryan Castellanos took the loss. He allowed six runs, five of them earned, off 10 hits and left with two outs in the fourth inning. Illinois’ bullpen was nearly as impressive as the Salukis, tossing four and a third scoreless innings to keep the game tight.

    The first win of the day was Henderson’s 100th as head coach of the Salukis.

    “The 100th win is a big win, only because we needed to win a baseball game in our own stadium,” Henderson said. “It was a big win for the program and the kids, but beyond that, it’s just another win for us.”

    In the second game of the day, SIU took a 3-0 lead into the ninth inning and escaped with the bases loaded after two runs had already crossed the plate in the inning.

    After throwing a perfect eighth inning, Derek Fogel stayed in to attempt a two-inning save. A pair of one-out singles put runners at the corners for Ryan Nagle, who hit a sacrifice fly to cut the Saluki lead to 3-1 and leave SIU one out away from a victory. Fogel then induced a groundball from Casey Fletcher, but Jake Welch’s throw to first base was low. That extended the game, and knocked Fogel out of it.

    Kyle Pruemer replaced Fogel and gave up an RBI single to Ryne Roper. Pruemer then walked pinch hitter Matthew James to load up the bases with the tying run at third before finally getting Will Krug to ground into a fielder’s choice to end the game.

    The win preserved Aaron Hauge’s second win of the season. The junior was spectacular in seven scoreless innings. He scattered four singles and struck out five. Hauge has now allowed just two runs in 20 innings over his last three starts.

    “I led with my breaking ball a good amount,” Hauge said. “That was part of our game plan, to keep them off balance throughout the game and control the fastball on the inner and outer half. I thought it went pretty well. My changeup and slider weren’t their best, but I got them over." 

    Illini starter Drasen Johnson pitched well but took the loss. He matched Hauge with five scoreless innings to start the game before Southern Illinois finally broke through in the bottom of the sixth. With one out, the Salukis recorded four consecutive hits to take a 2-0 lead. Cody Daily started the rally with a double that nearly cleared the left field wall. Donny Duschinsky drove him home with a single to left and then advanced to second on Tyler Rolland’s single. Dyllin Mucha’s third single of the day drove in Duschinsky with the second run of the inning.

    Mucha, a freshman making his second career start, entered the day 0 for 7 in his career before singling in each of his first three at-bats of the day.

    “It’s been a kind of a struggle, but I’ve been working on (my swing),” Mucha said. “I was just waiting for my time in the game to show that I’ve been working.”

    SIU added what proved to be a crucial insurance run in the seventh inning when Sabo drew a walk, and Matt Jones doubled him home with a double to left-center field.

    With the wins, SIU has now won three of its first five weekend series and avoided falling below .500 for the first time since the first week of the season.

    “It’s a big series win to get back on track,” Henderson said. “We were doing a lot of good things, but the concern was that when you lose five in a row, you start to lose confidence, so we needed to win a game or two. To come out and win a doubleheader against a good Illinois club, that’s a good day for us.”