April 23, 2006
By Jeff Honza
SPRINGFIELD, Mo. - Southern Illinois University (27-16, 7-5) made more history today when it won its first-ever road series against Missouri State (20-16, 6-6) under 12th-year head coach Dan Callahan. The Dawgs pounded the Bears, 9-2, to win its eighth Missouri Valley Conference series in nine tries.
SIU clinched its second series win all-time in Springfield, and the 2006 club became the first in Saluki baseball history to beat Wichita State and MSU in a road series during the same year. The Dawgs also took a three-game series from the Bears for the second-straight season.
"We played well in a huge series away from home this weekend," said Callahan. "I was happy with the way we pitched, hit and played defensively. We looked like an entirely different team."
The Salukis gave starting right-hander Matt Brewer a 4-0 lead after scoring one in both the first and third innings and two in the fifth.
Erik Alvarez's single to right plated Scott Elmendorf for the first run of the game. Alvarez then delivered a solo home run in the third, before Grant Gerrard blasted a two-run homer with no outs in the fifth. Gerrard was 0-for-10 with six walks (all of his walks were this weekend) lifetime against MSU prior to his two-run, two-hit performance today.
Two costly errors on the same play enabled SIU to blow the game open in the sixth.
With the bases loaded and two away, Gerrard hit a routine ground ball to MSU shortstop Tanner Mattson. Second baseman Matt Lawson was late getting to the bag in attempt to get Elmendorf out on a force, and missed Mattson's throw.
Nolan Keane fielded the ball in right and threw wide of catcher Clay Coulter at the plate. Hunter Harrigan, Kevin Koski and Elmendorf all scored on the play, before Alvarez's infield hit scored Gerrard to extend SIU's lead to 8-0.
Ahead, 9-0, Brewer allowed his only runs when Jacob Elmendorf hit a two-run homer in the bottom of the seventh. A native of Springfield, Ill., Brewer had a four-hit shutout through six innings before Hilgendorf's round-tripper.
Brewer moved to 3-2 on the year after scattering seven hits, issuing a walk and striking out one in seven innings. He also retired nine of 10 Bears in the middle innings. All three of Brewer's wins have come in league play, with two against Top-25 opponents (then-11 Wichita State and then-22 Creighton).
Left-hander Ross Detwiler fell to 3-3. He gave up nine hits and nine runs (four earned) to go along with seven strikeouts and seven walks in 6.2 frames. There were a total of 20 walks by MSU pitchers on the weekend.
SIU outhit MSU, 11-7, and registered double-digit hits in back-to-back games to close out the series.
Alvarez led all Salukis with four hits. He went 4-for-5 with a homer, double, one run scored and three RBI. Alvarez's four hits tied a career-high, and he was a triple shy of hitting for the cycle.
Alvarez, SIU's cleanup hitter, keyed the one-through-four part of SIU's order, which combined for nine hits, seven runs and seven RBI.
Defensively, the Dawgs went errorless for the second time in a row, a feat that hasn't happened all season. SIU had just one error, marking the lowest total in a series this year.
SIU has the fewest losses in the MVC following its series win in Springfield. Although moving into first-place on the loss side of the league, the Salukis dropped to third in percentage points behind Wichita State and Bradley. The Shockers took over sole possession of first-place after sweeping the Braves. WSU and BU, who have played three more games than the Dawgs, are now 9-6 (.600), while SIU is 7-5 (.583)
SIU hits the road for its final midweek game of the regular-season Wednesday. The Salukis play Saint Louis in a wood bat game at GMC Stadium in Sauget, Ill. First pitch is set for 7 p.m., CST. Kyle Catto will start on the mound.