OXFORD, Ala. — The Southern Illinois University baseball team dropped the season opener 7-4 to Jacksonville State at Choccolocco Park on Friday afternoon. The Gamecocks hit three home runs in the first five innings to build a 5-1 lead. SIU brought the tying run to the plate in the eighth and ninth innings, but JSU got a double play and a strikeout to end those threats.
"That was a pretty typical opening day," SIU head coach Ken Henderson said. "We were anxious. We weren't ourselves at the plate early. We settled into the game as it went along. Offensively, we were much better in the last four innings. That's typical. We were trying to do too much. But overall, we didn't play poorly at all. We have some things we need to clean up, but we didn't quit. We battled."
JSU first baseman Andrew Naismith hit home runs in back-to-back at-bats, a two run shot in the second inning and a solo blast to lead off the fourth. Cleanup hitter Trent Simpson hit a two run blast in the fifth to give JSU a 5-1 lead. Jacksonville State's 3-4-5 hitters went 7-for-13 with three home runs, while SIU limited the rest of the lineup to 2-for-19 from the plate.
"Naismith had a great night. Beyond him, we did a pretty good job with (Jacksonville State)," Henderson said. "We have to get guys in the right roles to throw up zeros. You need quality innings when you're down. But overall, it's opening night and we did some good things. Monty (Allen Montgomery) did a good job. We kicked a ball behind him, and he created some problems for himself with the walk, but he got out of it and gave us a chance to tie it in the ninth."
Logan Blackfan matched Naismith's two homer night. Blackfan became the first SIU player since 2014 to hit two home runs in a game. He added an RBI single in the eighth inning and finished the game 3-for-4 with 3 RBIs.
"When Logan Blackfan stays inside balls and plays gap-to-gap, he's as good as anybody," Henderson said. "That's what he's been doing that the last couple weeks, and that's what he did tonight. If he continues to do that and doesn't try to do too much, he's as good as anybody around. He was special tonight."
After falling behind 5-1 after 5 innings, SIU battled back with a run in each the sixth, seventh, and eighth innings; but JSU answered the runs in the bottom half of the sixth and seventh innings to maintain a cushion. Still, SIU brought the tying run to the plate in the eighth with one out before a double play ended that threat. Jared Kengottand Connor Kopach singled in the ninth to again bring the tying run to the plate, but a strikeout ended the game.
Kengott went 2-for-4 and scored a run. Freshman J.T. Weber drew a hit-by-pitch and stole a base, and he later picked up his first collegiate hit. Alex Lyon doubled for his first hit in an SIU uniform and scored on Blackfan's RBI single.
The Salukis and Gamecocks will play the second game of the three-game series today at 1 p.m. Lefty Jamison Steege will take the mound for SIU.