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SIU sweeps weekend series with win against Evansville

Senior+infielder+Ryan+Sabo%2C+left%2C+and+junior+infielder+Logan+Blackfan+celebrate+after+SIU%27s+8-3+win+against+the+Purple+Aces+on+Sunday%2C+April+2%2C+2017%2C+at+Itchy+Jones+Stadium.+%28Luke+Nozicka+%7C+%40lukenozicka%29
Senior infielder Ryan Sabo, left, and junior infielder Logan Blackfan celebrate after SIU's 8-3 win against the Purple Aces on Sunday, April 2, 2017, at Itchy Jones Stadium. (Luke Nozicka | @lukenozicka)

Senior infielder Ryan Sabo, left, and junior infielder Logan Blackfan celebrate after SIU's 8-3 win against the Purple Aces on Sunday, April 2, 2017, at Itchy Jones Stadium. (Luke Nozicka | @lukenozicka)

Senior infielder Ryan Sabo, left, and junior infielder Logan Blackfan celebrate after SIU's 8-3 win against the Purple Aces on Sunday, April 2, 2017, at Itchy Jones Stadium. (Luke Nozicka | @lukenozicka)

By Denton "Gio" Giovenco

Saluki baseball completed the sweep of its weekend series against Evansville Sunday with an 8-3 win.

Southern jumped on the board in the bottom of the first when junior second baseman Connor Kopach scored from second base on junior first baseman Logan Blackfan’s RBI single to take a 1-0 lead.

Evansville tied the game 1-1 in the top of the third when Evansville left fielder Brendan Krob sent the third pitch he saw from Saluki senior starting pitcher Joey Marciano over the left field fence for his first career home run. The home run was one of only two hits Marciano allowed in the game.

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The Salukis regained the lead in the bottom of the fourth when senior right fielder Jake Hand tripled down the left field line to put himself in position to score on junior designated hitter Hunter Anderson’s RBI infield single. Anderson scored from second base on Kopach’s RBI single up the middle to make the score 3-1.

Marciano’s day came to an end after walking the first two batters he faced in the top of the fifth, finishing with 4.0 innings pitched, accounting for two runs on two hits and four walks while striking out seven.

Evansville closed the gap 3-2 in the top of the fifth when the lead-off walk issued by Marciano came across to score as the Saluki infield turned a double play.

Evansville freshman infielder Craig Shepherd catches the ball Sunday, April 2, 2017, to get Saluki senior outfielder Dyllin Mucha out during SIU’s 8-3 win against the Purple Aces at Itchy Jones Stadium. (Luke Nozicka | @lukenozicka)

The Salukis added to their lead in the bottom of the sixth as aggressive base-running once again helped the ball club manufacture a run.

Senior third baseman Ryan Sabo reached on a walk and stole second base to put himself in scoring position. He scored from second base on Kopach’s RBI single to center field for a 4-2 Saluki lead.

“We’ve worked extremely hard on [being aggressive],” coach Ken Henderson said. “It’s been a good thing for our offense and created some runs. It’s proven that it pays off a lot more than it hurts us.”

Evansville made it a one-run game by scoring a run in the top of the seventh to bring the score to 4-3.

Evansville junior pitcher Hunter Porterfield throws the ball Sunday, April 2, 2017, during SIU’s 8-3 win against the Purple Aces at Itchy Jones Stadium. (Luke Nozicka | @lukenozicka)

Southern answered back with three runs of its own in the bottom half of the seventh, as Blackfan, Anderson and senior shortstop Will Farmer all scored in the inning to take a 7-3 Saluki lead.

Junior left fielder Greg Lambert reached on a single and advanced to second base on a throwing error by Evansville’s shortstop to lead off the bottom of the eighth. He stole third base before senior center fielder Dyllin Mucha drove him in with an RBI single to right field to add to the Salukis lead 8-3.

Freshman pitcher Alex Gutermuth pitched the last 2.2 innings of the game, allowing no runs and only one hit to earn his first career save while finishing off the win for the Salukis.

“We played well,” Henderson said. “Great job by our defense and our bullpen. The most exciting thing is I saw us starting to do some stuff right.”

Senior infielder Will Farmer swings at the ball Sunday, April 2, 2017, during SIU’s 8-3 win against the Evansville Purple Aces at Itchy Jones Stadium. (Luke Nozicka | @lukenozicka)

Southern’s defense proved solid in Sunday’s game — and the weekend as a whole — committing only two errors through the three-game series.

“To me, I think that maybe the last thing in this whole weekend that people won’t notice is how great our middle infielders played,” Henderson said. “They not only made the routine plays, they made spectacular plays. Farmer made two in the ninth [Sunday].”

The Salukis totaled 14 hits in Sunday’s game, with eight of the nine starters reaching base safely.

Four Saluki hitters enjoyed a multi-hit game Sunday, with Blackfan and Anderson each going 2-for-4, Lambert 3-for-5 and Kopach 4-for-5.

Lambert continues to swing a hot bat for Southern. When asked about his torrid start at the plate this season, he explained that some extra playing time in the summer helped him become a complete hitter.

“Playing in the Northwoods [College League] this past summer really helped me,” Lambert said. “I went there to work on my discipline at the plate, to be tough mentally and to try to stay consistent at the plate.”

With Sunday’s win, the Salukis (15-14, 3-0 MVC) find themselves in a tie atop the Missouri Valley Conference leaderboard with Dallas Baptist and Missouri State at 3-0 in conference play.

“We really needed this,” Lambert said. “Our team’s feeling great.”

“Proud of our guys,” Henderson said. “It was a good weekend and we did what we needed to do. We took care of business, but it’s just three games and it’s a long season. We’re gonna focus on Tuesday and try to keep this momentum going.”

Next up for Southern is a non-conference home game against Austin Peay at 5 p.m. Tuesday. Freshman pitcher Henry Boeckmann will take the mound for his second start of the season. The Salukis then travel to Wichita State for the first game of their second weekend conference series of the season Friday.

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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