Billikens win big and spoil Salukis’ home opener


Corrin Hunt

Southern Illinois sophmore catcher Austin Ulick reacts after a player for the Crusaders hit a homerun, Saturday, April 7, 2018, during the Valparaiso University Crusaders 6-2 victory against the Southern Illinois Salukis at Itchy Jones Stadium. (Corrin Hunt | @CorrinIHunt)

An anticipatedly exciting day for SIU baseball came and went as they dropped their home opener at Itchy Jones Stadium to the Saint Louis University Billikens 11-3. After dropping their last two games over the weekend in Jacksonville, Southern suffers another loss marking a three-game losing streak and a 3-6 record to start the season.

Fans didn’t have time to settle in their seats before SLU took the lead on a leadoff homer from Patrick Clohisy. Clohisy jumped on Salukis starter Jake Combs’ second offering and immediately put his team in front. A one-out double and three straight singles followed to give the Billikens a 3-0 advantage before SIU had an opportunity to bat.

After a scoreless first, Billikens’ starter Dawson Smith was relieved for Grant Fermion who Southern scored their first run off of. Kaeber Rog singled in a run with the bases loaded to cut the Saluki deficit to two in the bottom of the second. Rog shined in the home opener, going two-for-three with a double, two walks, an RBI and scoring a run. Nathan Bandy also went three-for-five with a double while Ryan Rodriguez had a two-for-five day with an RBI.


But SLU answered swiftly, bringing around Tyler Fogarty after his leadoff double to push their lead back to three. Comb’s day ended with four earned runs and six hits allowed through three innings of work. The Salukis used seven pitchers to follow Comb and keep their team in the game.

Although SIU continued to create traffic on the basepaths, they struggled to bring them around. They had six runners left on base through three innings and left 12 on throughout the game. Shane Wilhelm relieved Combs and worked around an error for a scoreless fourth. But he led off the fifth inning by walking the first two batters, where manager Lance Rhodes opted to Scott Harper to get out of the jam.

A bunt single loaded the bases, but Harper pulled his best Houdini impression as he recorded the first strikeout of the game and then induced a 4-6-3 double play to escape the inning without allowing a run. It presumably sparked energy into the Salukis in the bottom half of the inning as Rog led it off with a double. But he was stranded, and the Billikens led 4-1 after five.

Momentum was then swung completely as Saint Louis put together a six-run sixth to put the game away. It began with a four-pitch leadoff walk and a double. Harper threw a wild pitch which scored a run and then walked another Billiken to lead the bases. Rhodes then brought in lefty Matthew Steidl for his chance to work out of trouble. But he was unable to, surrendering an RBI single and later giving up a three-run homer to Cole Swanger to extend the SLU lead to 10-1. Swanger brought in five runs on the day.

Control issues continued as the SIU walked three in the top half of the eighth and a hit-by-pitch brought another run across. The Billikens received eight free passes overall from Saluki pitching. Southern scored a run each in the seventh and eighth innings on an RBI single from Rodriguez plating Rog and a wild pitch brought in Jack Rigoni who singled.

It resulted in a disappointing defeat for the Dawgs, as Saint Louis never relinquished their first inning lead. The Salukis will look to get on the right track this weekend. The team will remain in Carbondale as they will welcome the Ohio Bobcats to the Itch for a three-game set during March 3-5. Game one will commence at 3 pm on Friday.

Sports reporter Howard Woodard can be reached at [email protected].


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