April 22, 2012
By Scott Gierman
CARBONDALE, Ill. - The Salukis delivered a few key hits and escaped multiple potential big innings as SIU edged Creighton 6-5 and completed a three-game sweep of the Jays (15-20, 2-9 MVC) Sunday afternoon at Abe Martin Field. With the win, Southern (22-18, 8-4 MVC) won its fourth game in a row and moved into a second place tie in the Missouri Valley Conference standings, a half game behind first place Missouri State.
"For 27 innings we played extremely hard," SIU Coach Ken Henderson said. "No matter what happened, guys kept battling. The atmosphere in the dugout was good. We expected to win, and we had good makeup all weekend, and that was the difference. It wasn't always pretty, but it's beautiful now. "
For the second day in a row, Austin Montgomery's fifth inning double changed the game. After tying Saturday's game with a three-run double, Montgomery broke a 2-2 tie with a run-scoring double to left-center field on Sunday. The clutch hit gave SIU its first lead of the game and scored Chris Serritella, who had led off the inning with a single through the right side of the infield. Montgomery's double also knocked Creighton starter Shane Liska out of the game.
With a walk to pinch hitter Wes Neece, reliever Brandon Koeningstein loaded up the bases for Rennie Troggio. The Saluki center fielder extended SIU's lead to 5-2 with a two-run, bases loaded double that chopped over the third baseman's head and brought up a cloud of chalk as it hit the line in shallow left field.
Despite leaving the bases loaded when the inning concluded, SIU held onto the lead the rest of the way.
Sam Coonrod (2-2) earned the win for SIU, the freshman's first in conference play. He allowed two runs off four hits in five innings. Coonrod was a master escape artist as he left the bases loaded without allowing any runs in each of his final two innings of work.
"A couple times with bases loaded he came back and made great pitches," Henderson said. "He got himself in some trouble but then came back and executed and got out of it. That's the sign of a guy who is going to be a good pitcher. He didn't get rattled. He just came back and executed pitches."
Liska (1-2) took the loss for Crieghton. He surrendered four runs and six hits in four-plus innings of work and struck out six. Liska also worked out of jams early. In the first three innings of the game, SIU managed just one run against him but stranded six runners and struck out five times.
Southern's Jake Welch tied the game at 2-2 with a solo home run in the bottom of the fourth. It was the sophomore's first collegiate home run.
After leaving the bases loaded in the fourth and fifth innings without any runs to show for it, Creighton finally took advantage of free passes in the sixth inning when pinch hitter Brad McKewon hit a two-run, bases loaded single to left field to cut SIU's lead to 5-4.
Troggio struck again in the seventh inning to give the Salukis a much-needed insurance run. He hit a ground ball just out of the reach of Creighton's middle infielders to score Brock Harding and extend the lead to 6-4.
Jake Peter cut the lead back to one with an eighth inning solo home run. It was the only run Aaron Snyder allowed in his two and a third innings of relief. Todd Eaton nailed down his seventh save of the year with a hitless ninth inning.
"Our goal is to win the league. It's our goal every year, and this gets us one game closer," Henderson said. "We have a challenge next weekend. Misssouri State is leading the league so that'll be a fun weekend, and I'm looking forward to it. I'm sure our guys are too."
After Tuesday's 3 p.m. game at home against non-conference foe Southeast Missouri State, the Salukis will visit Missouri State for a chance to take over first place in the league. The three-game series is scheduled to begin at 6:30 p.m. on Friday.