SIU Baseball takes two out of three in against U of I in weekend series

By Joseph Bernard, Staff Reporter

Scoring 29 total runs across the three games, SIU baseball exploded on offense to take two out of three games against the Illini. The Salukis dropped the opener in a high scoring affair at 11-10, while coming back to take game two at 11-4 while finishing with a walk-off homer on Sunday to take the series with a 7-5 final score.

The series was highlighted by offensive performances from Nathan Bandy, who led the team in RBIs throughout the three games with five and hit a .333 batting average against the Illini. Kaeber Rog went 7 for 15 at the plate for a .467 batting average and a homer in game two. Christian Grey-Epps led the team in homer with two. Both of them coming from game two. He also led in batting average at .500 this weekend while going 7 for 14 at the plate.

The Salukis had a less than ideal start to the series and quickly found themselves in a deficit. Starter Tanner Lewis gave up 6 runs in 1+ innings pitched and before reaching the four spot in their lineup, they were already down 6-0. Lewis was replaced by Jordan Gould in the second inning. By the bottom of the fifth, it had become a 8-0 lead for the Illini after Gould gave up two more runs in the fourth and fifth innings.

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But the Salukis had no quit in them. Heading into the bottom of the seventh down 11-1, four singles in a row to start the inning off scored run number two for the Salukis. Then, a walk and a fielder’s choice scored runs three and four before an Evan Martin double scored their fifth run. With runners on second and third, Nick Hagedorn ripped a homer down the left-field line and just like that, SIU was only down 3 runs at 11-3 after seven innings of play.

In the ninth, SIU’s comeback attempt was reignited with a 2 RBI single by Nathan Bandy. Down to their last out and only down one run now, Grey-Epps fouled out to first base and Illinois would end up hanging onto the opener with an 11-10 final score.

Game two started the opposite way that game one had, with SIU jumping out to a 7-0 lead after three innings. Rog hit a two-run homer, a passed ball scored a runner from third, and then a two-RBi single into right field by Ryan Rodgriguez scored runs 6 and 7. The defense would find some trouble in the top of the fourth after two errors allowed the Illini to score an extra two runs in the inning and cut it to 7-3 after a walk scored a third runner.

Grey-Epps widened the gap with a two run shot in the fifth to make it 9-3. The Illini would earn a homer of their own in the top of the eighth, but Grey-Epps answered again with another two-run shot in the bottom of the same inning. SIU would hang onto their large lead to take game two with an 11-4 final score.

Game three would see the Salukis yet again have some first-inning woes, with starter Ben Chapman giving up an RBi-double and an RBI-single to go down 2-0 early. The U of I would add one more run in the top of the fifth, but SIU would answer right back with two RBI singles in a row by J.T Weber and Rog to make it 3-2. One batter later, Bandy would earn a SAC fly to score Weber and tie things up after five innings of play.

A single for the Illini would give them the lead once again in the top of the seventh, but Bandy would answer again with another clutch hit, earning two RBIs off a single to right field. That gave SIU the lead finally at 5-4. Next inning, a double-down the left-field line would score the tying run for the Illini as this one went into extra innings all tied up at 5 each. In the tenth, Rodriguez came up huge with a 2-run shot to left field end for the walk-off homer to take the game and series win against the U of I.

SIU will look to keep their winning ways going when they host Arkansas State this Tuesday with a 6 p.m first pitch.

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Sports reporter Joseph Bernard can be reached at [email protected] or on twitter @Jojobernard2001.

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