CARBONDALE — Last season, Logan Blackfan missed the kind of pitches Kyle Seebach threw him in the eighth inning Saturday in the first game of a doubleheader.
The senior first baseman hit a career-low .215 in 55 games with a school-record 64 strikeouts. The 6-foot-1, 215-pound left-hander set the school record for career doubles after hitting 12 in 2017 and 23 the year before. Blackfan, a preseason all-conference pick, struggled in the big moments. This season has been different.
Blackfan's two-run home run off Seebach put SIU's baseball team ahead to stay of Northern Illinois, and kicked off a seven-run frame. The Salukis went on to win, 10-4, and swept the doubleheader and the weekend series with a 7-2 win in the nightcap.
"They brought in that lefty to try to get me out, and I saw his fastball first pitch well all the way up, and I was just ready for another one," Blackfan said. "They'd been throwing me a bunch of curveballs and offspeed, but I was ready to see a good pitch and put a swing on it, and he just threw a pitch in my zone, and I was ready for it. I was happy to help my team."
Blackfan went 3 for 5 with four RBIs in SIU's Game 1 win, driving in the first two runs of the game with a two-out single to right in the fifth. He drove in two runs without a hit in Game 2, drawing a bases-loaded walk in the fourth and hitting a sacrifice fly in the sixth. Blackfan raised his batting average to .400 with four hits in 10 at-bats in the series with seven RBIs.
He has reached base in all 16 games this season for the Salukis (8-8).
"I'm gonna take what they give me. That's one thing I learned from last year, not just swinging, but swinging in pitches in my zone," Blackfan said. "They're gonna throw me four straight balls on the outside corner, I'll take my walks. That's been a big part of my game this year, so I just gotta keep seeing the ball well and help this team win."
SIU coach Ken Henderson said Blackfan has done a great job of hitting the ball where it's pitched, instead of trying to take it somewhere it wasn't.
"The difference is he's not trying to do too much. He's staying within himself. He's taking what the pitchers are giving him," Henderson said. "Last year, he just put too much pressure on himself. Every at-bat he was trying to hit the ball 500 feet, and thought he had to do that. He's just done a really good job all year long of hitting balls to the middle of the field, opposite-field, pull, and not trying to do too much."
SIU pounded out 21 runs in its first three-game sweep of the season behind 27 hits. The Salukis drew 17 walks against the Huskies (4-10), including 11 in Game 3.
"Obviously, when you walk that many guys you're not gonna give yourself really a good chance to win there, but we'll get back to the drawing board," Northern Illinois coach Mike Kunigonis said. "We'll practice (Sunday), and we'll figure this thing out and keep battling."
Freshman righty Trey McDaniel (1-1) got the win in Game 1 after giving up two runs in two innings in relief of starter Jamison Steege. Ryan Netemeyer closed out the win with a perfect ninth inning. Starter Mason Hiser (1-2) got the win in Game 2 after toughing out five innings. Hiser endured two errors in the top of the first, but limited the Huskies to one run and walked away with a 6-1 lead in the sixth.
SIU next plays at Arkansas State Tuesday night at 6 p.m. Missouri Valley Conference pitcher of the week Bradley Harrison is expected to start that game.