Salukis sweep Central Arkansas in first weekend at Home

By Brandyn Wilcoxen, Staff Reporter

SIU baseball moved to 6-1 this weekend after completing a three-game sweep of the Central Arkansas Bears (1-5). The series was scheduled to be played in Arkansas, but was moved to Itchy Jones Stadium and played from Saturday to Monday.

Saturday’s series opener was a back-and-forth contest that saw the Bears jump out to a 4-1 lead early, but home runs from first-baseman Jeremy Schork and outfielder Pier-Oliver Boucher kept the Salukis in it.

Junior Tanner Lewis took the mound tied 5-5 in the top of the 7th inning, and did not allow a hit in two innings, allowing SIU a chance to grab the lead. The Dawgs capitalized, as Evan Martin, Zack Jensen, and Cody Cleveland eached tallied two RBIs in the bottom of the 8th inning to give their team an insurmountable lead, eventually ending 11-6.

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Game two on Sunday was the first low-scoring game the Salukis played since Opening Day. Senior Noah Farmer threw six innings of one-run ball, and in the bottom of the fourth, Jensen gave SIU the lead with a 2-run home run to put them on the board. Infielders Kaeber Rog and J.T. Weber hit back-to-back home runs in the next frame to stretch the lead to 4-1.

Closer Trey McDaniel made his first save opportunity appearance of the season, and despite giving up an unearned ninth inning run, he earned his first save of the season and 29th of his career. McDaniel is now one save short of tying Bryant George for the second-most all-time.

The series finale on Monday was broken open by a five-run fifth inning, as the Salukis clinched the sweep 8-4 in their first Monday game of the Lance Rhodes era. Junior Jordan Bloemer picked up his first win of the year in 6.1 innings of work.

Despite not hitting a home run on Monday afternoon, the Salukis racked up six doubles, and eighth of the nine batters got a hit.

The Bears outhit the Salukis in the series 29-27, but left eight more runners on base than SIU did. Their situational hitting led to big innings in each of the games, which were all essentially decided by an explosion of the offense later in the game.

Boucher and Rog are two breakout stars on this Southern Illinois offense. Both junior college transfers have a hit in every game they’ve played so far, and sport triple slash lines of .478/.519/.913 and .464/.500/.786 respectively.

Schork, a transfer from Purdue, joins Boucher and Rog in having an OPS above 1.000 through seven games of the season. Weber is a rounding error away from joining that club at 0.998.

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On the pitching side, Junior Ben Riffe was named the Missouri Valley Conference’s Pitcher of the Week on Monday for his six-inning start against Austin Peay in SIU’s first nine-inning no-hitter since 1953.

The Salukis (6-1) will play their fourth game in four days when they host Western Illinois (1-5) on Tuesday. They will then hit the road for a weekend series at Little Rock (5-1).

Staff reporter Brandyn Wilcoxen can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter at @Brandyn_2020

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