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SIU completes sweep of home-opener series with win against Western Illinois

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Junior first baseman Logan Blackfan catches a throw from senior third baseman Ryan Sabo as Western Illinois junior infielder Mitch Ellis approaches first base Sunday, March 5, 2017, at Itchy Jones Stadium. The Salukis beat the Leathernecks 3-2. (Branda Mitchell | @branda_mitchell)

Junior first baseman Logan Blackfan catches a throw from senior third baseman Ryan Sabo as Western Illinois junior infielder Mitch Ellis approaches first base Sunday, March 5, 2017, at Itchy Jones Stadium. The Salukis beat the Leathernecks 3-2. (Branda Mitchell | @branda_mitchell)

Junior first baseman Logan Blackfan catches a throw from senior third baseman Ryan Sabo as Western Illinois junior infielder Mitch Ellis approaches first base Sunday, March 5, 2017, at Itchy Jones Stadium. The Salukis beat the Leathernecks 3-2. (Branda Mitchell | @branda_mitchell)

By Denton "Gio" Giovenco

With stiff crosswinds aiding pitchers in keeping batters off-balance at the plate — and balls inside the park — SIU claimed a hard-fought 3-2 win over Western Illinois to complete a three-game sweep of the home-opener series.

Senior starting pitcher Joey Marciano took the mound for the Salukis Sunday at Itchy Jones Stadium. This was only Marciano’s second start of the season, after taking two weeks off to rest a sore arm.

The hard-throwing Marciano only managed  2 ⅔ innings, allowing three hits and surrendering two earned runs while walking two batters and striking out three.

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Two of the three hits Marciano allowed were bunt singles — one in the top of the second inning and the other to lead off the top of the third inning.

“[Marciano’s] pitch count got up and he’s got to be more efficient,” coach Ken Henderson said. “But it’s the first time he’s thrown in two weeks, so I can live with that.”

The rest of the game Henderson relied on his bullpen, which was well-rested coming into Sunday’s finale due to deep starts by senior starting pitcher Chad Whitmer Friday and senior starting pitcher Michael Baird Saturday.

Freshman pitcher Alex Gutermuth throws the ball Sunday, March 5, 2017, at Itchy Jones Stadium. SIU defeated Western Illinois 3-2. (Branda Mitchell | @branda_mitchell)

Over the remaining 6 ⅓ innings Sunday, pitchers Alex Gutermuth, Jamison Steege, Jacob Williams and Ryan Netemeyer combined to shut down Western Illinois’ bats to the tune of two hits and zero runs while issuing two walks and striking out five.

“Our bullpen won the game,” Henderson said. “Gutermuth was outstanding … and then Steege. We pieced it together until we get to Netemeyer, so great job by our bullpen throwing up zeroes.”

This was Netemeyer’s third save of the season, allowing one hit and no runs while striking out one in the ninth inning to nail down the Saluki victory.

SIU scored all three of its runs in the bottom of the second inning.

An RBI single by senior third baseman Ryan Sabo and an RBI double off the bat of junior second baseman Connor Kopach would account for two of the three runs in the inning.

Freshman catcher Mitch Fairfield was awarded home on a balk by Western Illinois senior starting pitcher Preston Church to account for the other run.

SIU only recorded one more hit, and zero runs, through the rest of the game.

The total of six hits in the game Sunday for the Salukis was the second-lowest hit total of the season.

“Sometimes you gotta hit what the pitcher gives you and we just didn’t do a good job of that today,” Henderson said. “But we have good hitters and we’ll get back to work and we’ll make that adjustment.

The Salukis (7-4) look to get their offense back in stride — and keep the winning streak alive — when they travel to Murray State Tuesday for a 4 p.m. match-up. This will be the first game of a nine-game road trip for the Salukis.

Sports writer Denton “Gio” Giovenco can be reached at dgiovenco@dailyegyptian.com or on Twitter @DentonGiovenco.

To stay up to date with all your SIU sports news, follow the Daily Egyptian on Facebook and Twitter.

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