CARBONDALE — Greg Lambert drove in Ryan Smith with a one-out double in the first inning Sunday, and was just getting started for SIU's baseball team.
The Salukis' leading hitter went 4 for 4 at the plate with seven RBIs, one off the school record, in the Salukis' 13-8 victory over Tennessee Tech. SIU captured a three-game sweep of the Ohio Valley Conference leaders with the win, and built some momentum for what could be its toughest stretch of the year beginning this week.
"I told you guys, hitting is contagious, and not hitting is contagious, and we got on a little bit of a roll (Saturday) hitting some balls up the middle," SIU coach Ken Henderson said. "And some guys bought in and kind of fed off each other. That's exciting, because we thought we were better, offensively, than we've shown most of the year, so, good time to get it going."
SIU (21-20) had scored just 12 runs in its previous five games before the weekend series against the Golden Eagles (30-12). Against one of the highest-scoring teams in the nation — Tennessee Tech entered the weekend averaging over eight runs a game — the Salukis won an old-fashioned Sunday slugfest at Jones Stadium with 13 hits.
Four of them went for extra bases, including two doubles by Lambert. Leadoff hitter Connor Kopach reached base three times, scored three runs and stole four bases, the most for a Saluki since Leland Macon got four against Austin Peay in 1992. Ryan Smith, the No. 2 hitter Sunday, went 2 for 3 with two RBIs and two runs, and cleanup hitter Logan Blackfan just missed a home run in the first inning against Eagles starter Chase Burkett.
Lambert doubled to left-center field in the first, singled in two runs in the second, drove in another run in the fourth, and capped SIU's five-run seventh with another two-run single.
The Salukis' top-three hitters went a combined 9 for 11 with three doubles, 11 RBIs and six runs scored.
"You gotta give credit to all the guys hitting in front of me," Lambert said. "They had pretty good days, and when they have good days like that, it lets me relax, and hitting's contagious, so, just go up there, and when those guys get on good things are gonna happen."
Things went south in all three phases for Tennessee Tech, which committed 10 errors in three games. The Golden Eagles had three Sunday, which led to six unearned runs.
Tennessee Tech had 30 errors in 39 games before this weekend's series.
"A lot of times it's not errors that beat you, it's what type of errors are they?" Tennessee Tech coach Matt Bragga said. "Errors are never good, and that's what we did this weekend, but we didn't beat the game of baseball. They took advantage and did a good job."
The Golden Eagles hit four extra-base hits, including a solo home run by Chase Chambers, and pulled within two in the sixth with a five-run inning. SIU answered with one run in the bottom half, and put the game all but out of reach with a five-run seventh.
The Salukis play at Southeast Missouri State (20-16) Tuesday in Cape Girardeau before opening a 10-game homestand against preseason Missouri Valley Conference favorite Dallas Baptist April 28. SIU is also scheduled to host Illinois, Missouri State and Illinois State during the homestand, the team's longest of the season.