SIU baseball travels to Creighton to fight for first place

By Gus Bode

SIU baseball travels to Creighton to fight for first place

The second place Diamond Dawgs to battle a .500 team while other league leaders face off

Factoid:All four games can be heard on WJPF 1020 AM. The games will begin Friday at 3 p.m., Saturday at noon and Sunday at 1 p.m.

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Despite two straight disappointing series, the SIU baseball team has managed to move up in the Missouri Valley Conference standings to second place.

If they play well this weekend, the Dawgs could take over first place.

The Salukis will play Creighton this weekend in a four-game series that will once again determine the rankings of a tight MVC.

Only one game separates the top three teams of Southwest Missouri State, SIU and Wichita State.

SIU senior outfielder Sal Frisella said every game from here on out is the biggest game the Diamond Dawgs have had all year.

The Salukis (23-19, 14-9 MVC) will take on a Creighton team (16-27, 10-10 MVC) that finds itself fifth in the conference, but near the bottom of the league in nearly every statistical category.

The Bluejays are seventh in team ERA (5.50), eighth in fielding percentage (.956) and dead last in batting average (.268).

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Creighton was able to take three of four from Wichita State last weekend in a series that knocked the Shockers from first to third in the standings. The Dawgs did not do quite as well because they could only earn a 2-2 split against the Evansville Purple Aces.

After that performance, and the team’s showing in the four-and-a-half innings of the cancelled Illinois game, SIU head baseball coach Dan Callahan expressed his displeasure with the way the team looked on the field and in the dugout.

The Salukis may have looked bad, but they do have a few things in their favor. The Bluejays have only one hitter batting over .300 while the Salukis have four.

The SIU offense is led by freshman Nathan Emrick (.320), senior Toby Barnett (.319), junior Nathan Boldt (.302) and Frisella (.310), who recently became tied for fifth on the SIU career home run list with 24.

From the mound, Saluki ace Jake Alley (5-2) will go once again in game one after losing his first MVC game of the season last weekend. Bryan Rueger and Tyler Norrick will throw in the twin bill, but Callahan has once again waited to announce a starter for game four.

The Bluejays have also not named a fourth starter, but Chris Appuhn, fresh off a one-hit shutout of the Shockers and an MVC Pitcher of the Week award, is not part of the starting lineup.

It would seem, much like the last two weekends, this series would be the perfect opportunity to take over first place, especially because the Bears and Shockers are facing each other in Springfield, Mo.

“We’ve got to win the conference games,” Frisella said. “They make a difference now. We’ve got to go out and fight for a championship.”

Each game has growing importance as the college careers of four Salukis – Frisella, Alley, Toby Barnett and Ross Kowzan.

In all their time at SIU, none of them have won an MVC championship, and it is something the quartet wants badly.

During a team meeting, the men explained that this has been the only year the seniors have had a chance to win the MVC, and it could be the freshmen’s only chance.

“We’ve been playing the game since we were 4 and 5 years old,” Frisella said. “It’s hard to see that maybe in three weeks, it might all come to an end.

“We tried to convey that message to those guys as well as we could, and hopefully it comes across for some of them.”

Reporter Christopher Morrical can be reached at [email protected]

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