Baseball takes series with Saturday win at Western Illinois

MACOMB, Ill. – SIUE baseball earned its third victory in the Ohio Valley Conference series, defeating Western Illinois 11-9 on Saturday afternoon.

The Cougars have won four in a row and improved to 8-6 in OVC play and 16-23 overall. WIU fell to 3-11 in the league and 7-27 overall.

After taking an early lead, the Cougars had to come back to get the win.

“It’s nice to be on top early,” said SIUE Head Coach Sean Lyons said. “But (Western Illinois) fought back. They pressured us.”

The Cougars used four hits to score three runs in the third inning. Gage Franck delivered the big hit, doubling down the left field line to score two.

The Leathernecks answered with five runs in the bottom of the inning. JR Heavlin hit a three-run home run in the inning for WIU.

The Cougars pulled one run back in the third Chase Bloomer came in from third on a double steal attempt. Daniel Gierer was thrown out in second place. SIUE then took the lead back in the seventh Ryan Niedzwiedz drove two home on a fielder’s choice play at second base.

WIU tied the game again in the bottom of the seventh inning, before SIUE regained the lead when Bloomer doubled and later drove in on a throwing error in the top of the eighth inning. Drew Mize And Luke Spence Sacrifice flies were added in the inning to extend the lead to 9-6. The Cougars would use an error and a sacrifice fly to add two in the top of the ninth to lead 11-6.

The runs proved important, as WIU scored three times in the bottom of the ninth to cut the lead to 11-9.

“We did some good things in the money innings, which is the seventh, eighth and ninth innings,” Lyons said. “We fought back, moved forward and got insurance.”

Ian Benner (3-0) earned the victory over four innings in relief. He allowed three earned runs and struck out three.

Ian Benner did a good job with the pen,” Lyons said. “The points he conceded were when we had some problems defensively. When we had some mistakes, (Western Illinois) took advantage of them.”

Liam McKillop picked up his third save of the year, coming in with the bases loaded in the ninth inning and eliminating Western Illinois to end the game. He took one out.

Alex Rodriguez started and allowed five runs, all unearned, over four innings.

Both teams scored eight goals in the match. No one scored more than one goal for the Cougars. Franck and Niedzwiedz each had two RBI’s.

Luke Spence finished the game 0-2 with a pair of walks and a sacrifice fly. It is his first hitless game since March 9. His 23-game hitting streak was the longest at the Division I level for SIUE and an attempt to tie the all-time school record.

The Cougars will try to earn the sweep on Sunday afternoon. The first pitch is set for 1 p.m

“It’s great to get the series win on the road, but the job can’t be done there,” Lyons said. ‘We want to wipe it away. That’s how you start to make up ground.’