Salukis stay hot, sweep Belmont at home


Corrin Hunt

Southern Illinois senior infielder Drew Curtis (19) gets congratulated by his teamates after hitting 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)

Southern Illinois baseball (19-13) continues to roll as they won all three games against the Belmont Bruins (18-15) this weekend at Itchy Jones Stadium. Two of the games went into extra innings, where SIU managed to capture walkoff victories.

The series was primed to be a great Valley matchup between two hot teams as the Bruins had won 11 of their previous 12 games while the Salukis have now earned victories in 11 of their last 12. Southern continues to play great ball at home, as they improved to 11-4 at the Itch.

The Dawgs pulled off a 7-6 win in the first game of the set on Thursday after Matt Schark lifted a solo home run down the right-field line in the bottom of the 11th. SIU went scoreless the three innings prior, after starting the game scoring one run each in six of the first seven frames.


The two leaders in home runs on the team, Cole Christman and Steven Loden, also smacked solo shots. Nathan Bandy was a catalyst in the leadoff spot, going 3-for-5 with a double and two runs scored. Pier-Olivier Boucher was productive behind him in the two-hole, having a 2-for-5 day while driving in a run, marking his sixth straight multi-hit game.

With a 6-3 lead heading into the 8th, Scott Harper got into trouble after pitching 2.2 shutout innings. The Bruins hit two doubles and a single to add two runs and get back in the game. Paul Bonzagni relieved Harper and stopped the bleeding momentarily before Belmont tied the game in the top of the 9th. It would remain knotted at six until Schark’s two-out home run a few innings later.

Jordan Bloemer was the story in the middle game of the series which the Salukis won 6-1. It was a quality start for Bloemer as he turned in 6.1 innings pitched as he struck out three and only allowed one run. He only allowed four hits and two walks over his 100 innings pitched as he moved to 2-0 on the season. Easton Dermody collected his first save of the year after shutting out Bruins in the final 2.2 innings, only surrendering two hits and two walks, while striking out four.

Christman continued his power surge, connecting on his eighth home run in the bottom of the fourth. It was his second RBI of the game after he started the Dawgs’ scoring with a sac fly in the first inning. Ryan Rodriguez had a huge day at the dish, putting together a 3-for-4 day with two doubles. Mathieu Vallee also knocked an RBI double during a four-run seventh inning for SIU.

During the final game, the Salukis scored in the first inning for the third straight game as Bandy hit another leadoff double and scored on a Belmont error later in the frame. Bandy would cross the plate again later on and he also walked twice. Kaeber Rog hit an RBI double after the error to push the Southern lead to 2-0.

The Bruins cut the lead in half in the top of the 4th on SIU starter Tanner Lewis. Then Belmont took the lead the following inning after a bases loaded walk and hit-by-pitch that plated the tying and go-ahead runs. But the Salukis answered back in the bottom portion of the fifth, as Christman was in the mix again for the Salukis, tying the game with an RBI single.

The game would remain tied at three for a while, as Southern pitchers Matthew Steidl and Bonzagni pitched 7.2 innings of scoreless ball in relief of Lewis. Steidl did surrender the walk and hit-by-pitch that plated two of his inherited runners but didn’t allow a hit in his 2.2 innings of work. Bonzagni ended up getting the win as he gave the Dawgs five shutout frames, only giving up two hits, a walk, and striking out a batter.


In the bottom of the 12th, Christman led off the inning with a single to center and then moved up to second base on a passed ball. After a groundout moved him to third and then an intentional walk, a strikeout dimmed the SIU threat. A fly ball popped into left center off the bat of Schark was then dropped by the Bruins’ centerfielder, leading Christman to score and Schark to be the hero once again.

The sweep moves the Salukis to 8-1 in Missouri Valley Conference play and a chance to continue their hot play at home. They’ll remain at the Itch as the Southeast Missouri Redhawks (18-16) will come to Carbondale on Tuesday with first pitch at 6 pm.

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

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