CARBONDALE — Jeremy Eierman's three-run home run in the top of the 11th off Ryan Netemeyer lifted 16th-ranked Missouri State past SIU Sunday at Jones Stadium.
Netemeyer, in his fourth inning of work under sunny skies and temperatures in the 70s, walked the first two batters in the 11th before yielding Eierman's 18th home run of the season. The sophomore shortstop went 2 for 8 with three walks in the first two games of the series, but finished 2 of 5 with four RBIs in the Bears' 18th straight Missouri Valley Conference victory.
Missouri State (33-14, 14-0 MVC) will try to tie the league record of consecutive league victories at home against Indiana State Friday night.
SIU (23-26, 6-9) outhit the Bears 9-8 and rallied from a three-run deficit to take the lead briefly in the third inning. Jake Hand's three-run home run, his second of the weekend, put the Salukis in front 4-3, but Missouri State tied it in the fifth and threw eight straight shutout innings to finish off the three-game sweep.
"We had opportunities, and put ourselves in position to win the game a couple times, and just couldn't get the big hit, and they obviously did," SIU coach Ken Henderson said. "Gave ourselves a chance after giving up three in the first, come back and compete and battle all day. We just couldn't get the big hit."
SIU spotted Missouri State a 3-0 lead with five walks in the opening inning. Starter Joey Marciano walked Hunter Steinmetz to start the game, but then got Justin Paulsen to fly out to center field and struck out Jake Burger for the second out of the inning. Marciano gave up a blooper off the bat of Eierman that got past second baseman Connor Kopach in the outfield. Steinmetz scored for a 1-0 lead that grew to three runs after four straight walks.
Marciano left after only 19 minutes on the mound in favor of junior lefty Jamison Steege, who became SIU's highlight of the day. Steege struck out John Privitera on three pitches to end the first and gave up one run in a season-high 6 2/3 innings.
"Once he said my name, I just tried to lock in and get ready to go to give our bullpen a little bit of a rest and a chance to win," Steege said.
The 6-foot-2, 200-pound reliever from Kirkwood (Iowa) College allowed the run in the fifth and five hits. Steege walked two and struck out two to give SIU time to rebound from its awful start.
"I had Tommy John (surgery) and have been working with coach (P.J. Finigan) to get my feel back," Steege said. "Today I felt like, for the most part, I could get my fastball and my curveball, and my changeup over, for the most part, to keep them off my fastball."
Steege's performance was a welcome respite from a bullpen that walked 16 batters during the weekend.
"I'm awfully proud of Jamison," Henderson said. "The guy was called on in the first inning. There's no way in hell he's thinking he's gonna do that, and you come in and throw six-and-two-thirds and give up no earned runs, that's a pretty special effort by him and certainly the highlight of the day."
Tied at four in the ninth, the Salukis got two on with one out but were unable to push across the winning run. Will Farmer singled to left and went to second when Ryan Sabo drew a full-count walk against Austin Knight. Missouri State pulled Knight for closer Bryan Young, who struck out Dyllin Mucha looking and got Kopach to ground out to third base.
SIU got the winning run to second base in the 10th, as well, but came up short when Nick Hutchins struck out. Ryan Smith drew a leadoff walk and stole second with two outs. Logan Blackfan drew a full-count walk to bring up Hutchins, who fanned to end the inning.
SIU got swept for the first time this season in a weekend series and fell to sixth place in the standings with six games left. With a win over Bradley Sunday, Evansville (15-31, 6-8) moved into fifth place behind Wichita State (22-25, 7-8). The Salukis close the season against last-place Illinois State (12-34, 1-14) at home this weekend, against Saint Louis in Marion May 16, and at seventh-place Bradley (19-25, 5-10).