Matt Jones drove in three runs with a pair of doubles Saturday.
May 3, 2014
By Scott Gierman
CARBONDALE, Ill. – Southern Illinois snapped a nine-game conference losing streak with a decisive 8-2 win over Evansville Saturday afternoon at Itchy Jones Stadium. The eight runs were the largest output in a nine-inning conference game this season for SIU (22-25, 4-13 MVC) as it evened the three-game series at a game apiece with the first place Purple Aces (29-16, 10-4 MVC).
After stranding 13 runners in an 11-inning loss on Friday night, the Saluki offense broke out for a cathartic five-run third inning on Saturday, giving the Dawgs control of the game with a 5-0 lead.
“I’m extremely proud of our guys,” SIU Coach Ken Henderson said. “It’s a great bounce back win after yesterday. We did everything well. We played all parts of the game well as we did yesterday but didn’t have anything to show for it. It’s nice to be rewarded for our efforts.”
In the third inning, SIU took advantage of a couple wild pitches and Jake Hand’s RBI single to bring home the first two runs. Matt Jones then hit a two-run, two-out double down the left field line that turned a good inning into a big inning. Will Farmer followed with another big two-out hit, a single through the left side, to score Jones for the fifth run of the frame.
“We got a couple breaks (in the fifth inning), but we’ve gotten breaks all year and not taken advantage of them,” Henderson said. “Today we took advantage of them like when Jonesy hit that double down the line. We had a couple key hits and picked some guys up.”
That early cushion was more than Todd Eaton needed to claim up his third win of the season. He allowed two runs, only one of them earned, in seven innings of work. Eaton retired 11 of the first 13 batters he faced.
Evansville finally manufactured a run in the top of the fifth. Eaton issued a leadoff walk to Boomer Synek. He moved to second on a single and advanced to third and then home on a pair of fielder’s choices. That cut SIU’s advantage to 5-1.
“(Eaton) threw well with a lead,” Henderson said. “He got into a couple jams and did a great job minimizing it. There were a couple times where if they got another hit or a two, a one run inning could turn into a three run inning. He did a good job of minimizing and not letting them back in the ballgame.”
Southern responded with a couple more runs in the bottom of the fifth inning to stretch the lead to six runs. Facing reliever Matt Rodgers in his first inning of work, Farmer led off the inning with a double, and Dyllin Mucha beat out an infield single to put runners at the corners. After a walk loaded the bases, Jake Welch and Ryan Casillas hit back-to-back sacrifice flies to chase home Farmer and Mucha and give SIU a 7-2 lead.
Evansville threatened to tighten the score in the sixth inning. With SIU still in front 7-2, Eaton loaded the bases with a single and a pair of walks but escaped with no damage when Eric McKibban hit a weak grounder back to the mound.
“I got ahead in the count, and I threw a fastball in to catch him off guard,” Eaton said. “It jammed him to end the inning.”
SIU’s final tally came home when Cody Daily led off the eighth with a double and came home when Jones bounced his second two-out double of the game over the left field wall.
“I was down 0-2 (in the count) really fast,” Jones said. “The second strike was a fastball, and I wish I would’ve hit that. I was trying compete, and was able to put a good swing on it. He tried to throw a changeup again, and that’s what I hit my first double on, so I guess I was seeing it well.”
Chad Whitmer finished the game for the Salukis with two scoreless innings out of the bullpen. He issued two walks but no hits and struck out three.
“Whitmer did a good job throwing up zeroes,” Henderson said. “His breaking pitch was working well. He did a good job too.”
The win provides the Salukis with a morale boost as they avoided stretching their losing streak to a season-worst six games. SIU will try to win its first conference series of the season when the series concludes on Sunday. Aaron Hauge will take the mound for Southern. First pitch is at 1 p.m. at Itchy Jones Stadium.