CAPE GIRARDEAU — Trailing by three runs in the ninth inning, the SIU baseball team rallied for a 7-5 win at Southeast Missouri State Tuesday night at Capaha Field. Logan Blackfan hit the game-tying home run, and Jake Hand hit the go-ahead two-run single to give SIU its second ninth-inning comeback win in the last three games.
Southeast Missouri State (21-18) took an early 3-0 lead with a pair of home runs in the second inning. SIU (22-20) got a run back in the third and fourth but couldn't draw even. The Redhawks added a couple insurance runs in the late innings to take a 5-2 lead. The Salukis ended up leaving 12 men on base in the game and were 0-for-9 at the plate until the ninth-inning comeback.
"I thought we played well all night; we just couldn't get the key hit to fall," SIU coach Ken Henderson said. "We had guys on base all night and took a lot of good swings. We stayed at it. Guys are confident right now. When you have ability and play with confidence, good things happen. That was a phenomenal job in the ninth of putting guys on base and putting great A-Bs together."
In the ninth inning, Connor Kopach laced a ball to deep right-center, but SEMO had him played that way and ran it down for the first out. Ryan Smith started the ninth-inning rally with a one-out double, and Greg Lambert brought him home with a double to pull SIU within 5-3. Blackfan was in an 0-2 hole but battled back and crushed a 2-2 pitch to right center to tie the game. After a pitching change, Nick Hutchins and Will Farmer drew walks, and Ryan Sabo's infield single loaded the bases. Jake Hand punched a single up the middle to score two runs and give SIU the lead.
"We talk about hitting being contagious," Henderson said. "Kopach started that inning by smoking a ball. Their guy ran it down, but the next hitters gain confidence from that. And we were in the right part of the lineup. Smitty smoked a ball, and Lambert is red-hot right now. That two-strike swing from Blackfan might have been the best swing he's taken all year. He absolutely crushed that ball. It's tied up, but nobody is on. Guys battled at the plate to get on base, and Jake Hand came off the bench and had a great AB."
Jamison Steege impressed in his first career start. After the two homers in the second, he retired 11 of the final 12 he faced. He struck out four in five innings and did not issue a walk. Brad Harrison and Austin McPheron kept SIU within striking distance over the next three innings, bridging the gap to Ryan Netemeyer in the ninth.
"Out pitching was outstanding," Henderson said. "That was a complete game. We got down 5-2, and I thought we played awfully well to be down 5-2. Once Jamison settled in and started pitching, he was outstanding. He gave us five good innings in his first start. Great job by him, and a great job by our bullpen."
Netemeyer walked the first two batters of the ninth inning but retired the next three in order to secure the win. Netemeyer tied Al Levine's SIU single-season saves record with his 13th of the season. He hasn't allowed an earned run since February.
The Salukis are on a season-high four-game winning streak and swept the season series from Southeast Missouri State. Southern Illinois hosts Dallas Baptist for a three-game series this weekend. DBU (6-3) and SIU (5-4) are second and third in the Missouri Valley Conference, respectively.
"As an offense, it's contagious, and that's where we're at right now," Henderson said. "Down the stretch, with a few weeks to go in conference, it feels good to do that. Our guys know that we're never out of it. We can score some runs. We don't give in, and we don't quit. We keep battling. That's all important down the stretch."