Saluki Baseball gears up for final stretch of regular season

Southern Illinois currently sits at 26-10 on the season, 4-2 against Missouri Valley Conference opponents. Junior Cody Cleveland said SIU has a real chance to win the conference and contend for a bid in the college World Series.

“It’s one series at a time for right now,” Cleveland said, “But the end goal is to get into a regional, because anything can happen when you get into the playoffs.”

The Dawgs are coming off of an 11-4 loss against Austin Peay on Tuesday, April 20, a team they have struggled with this season. 


“As an offense, I feel like we needed to produce way better. I know we’re going to have games like that, but we need to make sure we’re still competing,” sophomore Kaeber Rog said. 

However, before their game against the Governors, the Salukis managed to defeat two of its fiercest  rivals: Southeastern Missouri State and Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville. 

In fact, SIU’s win against SEMO was its first quadrant one win of the season. Cleveland said that game in particular helped give the Salukis more confidence. 

“Coming out of there with a win felt great. It was a great RPI boost for us as well,” Cleveland said. 

The victories over SIU-E came on the weekend of April 16, where SIU defeated the Cougars a combined 11-6. Rog said the home fans really helped SIU and gave the team an advantage. 

“Going to the game and seeing a packed hill puts some energy in you. You want to play good for the fans,” Rog said. 

According to the Salukis, it’s been like that all season. “The Hill” has been a staple at SIU for a long time, and it has been terrifying teams that come to Itchy Jones Stadium.


Southern Illinois is an outstanding 17-5 at home, and Cleveland attributes much of that to the fans who come out to support their team. 

“It’s such a cool atmosphere. It’s so much fun to play in,” Cleveland said. 

The Salukis feel comfortable anywhere, in any situation, according to head coach Lance Rhodes. He said his team has done a great job all season of playing under pressure. 

“We’ve played some close games recently but I like how our guys respond in those types of situations,” Rhodes said. 

Cleveland said every player did their part in the off-season to improve from last season. The team has benefited a lot from this development. 

“I’ve really enjoyed playing with these guys and I’ve really enjoyed the team that’s come out this year,” Cleveland said. “I think we’ve only grown closer, only gotten better as the season treads along.”

Rog said he made a lot of improvements since last season. The work he did over the last couple months has helped him improve in every asset of his game. 

“Coming here, the coaches told me they needed a lot from me on the offensive side. Individually, I feel like I have improved a lot,” Rog said. 

Rhodes has given his personal endorsement to players like senior Grey Epps and sophomore Nathan Bandy. Epps used to be an all-or-nothing hitter. Now, he’s managed to get on base much more often. 

“He’s done a great job this year. I think the ability has always been there,” Rhodes said, “His approach has been phenomenal all year long.”

Rog said he feeds off the success of the other players around him. Players like senior JT Weber and Bandy have motivated him to be better as a hitter. 

“Having other players on the team that hit well helps me a lot. They motivate me to keep going, keep hitting every single day,” Rog said. 

The Salukis have an important weekend coming up with a series against conference opponent Dallas Baptist. DBU currently sits at 23-13, so it should be a fairly even match-up. 

In order to win this weekend, Cleveland said, SIU players just need to focus on themselves. 

“They’re a talented team and have shown that all year. But I think for us to win we just need to play our game and not focus on what they’re doing,” Cleveland said. 

With roughly a month left in the regular season Rog said the goal is to remain consistent. 

“We need to just keep doing what we’re doing. We need to keep trusting the pitchers, our offense and our defense. If we do that we should be fine,” Rog said. 

Last season, the Salukis went 40-20 during the regular season. Rog said 40 wins is now the standard for this team. 

“We expect to win 40 games. That’s what’s expected in the locker room,” Rog said. “Some games we haven’t competed enough, but most of the time we play well and work well as a team.”

Cleveland said a major factor in SIU’s success going forward will be everyone’s willingness to be on the same page and get behind their goals. From the team, to the fans, to the athletic department. 

“If everyone buys in and is pulling in the same direction, it makes playing this game so much easier and makes it so much more fun,” Cleveland said. 

Sports Reporter Cole Daily can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter at cdaily_de. To stay up to date on all your southern Illinois news, follow the Daily Egyptian on Facebook and Twitter