May 19, 2006
By Jeff Honza
NORMAL, Ill. - Southern Illinois University (33-22, 12-11) clinched a spot in the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament for the fifth-straight year when it beat Illinois State (19-33, 9-14), 10-5, earlier tonight at Redbird Field.
The win put a halt to a frustrating four-game losing streak for the Dawgs, who moved to fifth in the league standings.
SIU hadn't led an opponent for 37.1 consecutive innings until it gave starting left-hander Tyler Norrick a two-run advantage in the second.
Bret Maugeri and Chris McCulloch started things off with back-to-back one-out singles, before Hunter Harrigan doubled home Maugeri on the next play. McCulloch later scored on an error to give the Salukis a 2-0 lead.
SIU received plenty of help from Redbird starter Kitt Kopach in the third. Kopach issued two walks and hit three consecutive batters, and as a result, the Salukis plated three more runs to pull ahead, 5-0.
After tacking on two more runs in the fourth and another two in the seventh, SIU carried what appeared to be a comfortable 9-0 lead into the bottom half of that frame.
It was then where ISU suddenly came to life.
The Redbirds, after pushing across three runs in the seventh, scored twice more to narrow the gap to 9-5 in the eighth.
ISU could have done even more damage with one out and the bases loaded, but SIU shortstop Tyler Lairson scooped up Ryan Anetsberger's grounder up the middle, stepped on second and threw to first for a huge inning-ending double play.
Kopach fell to 3-9 after giving up five hits and five runs in just 2.2 innings. He also struck out five and walked two.
Offensively, SIU out-hit ISU, 12-10.
Freshman Bret Maugeri topped the Dawgs with three hits and three runs scored. Maugeri led the five-through-seven part of SIU's lineup, which accounted for seven runs and five hits.
SIU plays its final game of the 2006 regular-season against ISU tomorrow at 2 p.m., CST.
Seedings and pairings for the 2006 ConAgra Foods MVC Tournament will be announced at the conclusion of league play tomorrow. The Dawgs could go as high as a four-seed with a win over the `Birds and a Creighton loss.