VALPARAISO, Ind. — Valparaiso used a three-run fifth inning to break a 1-1 tie and beat Southern Illinois, 4-1, on Sunday at Bauer Field. The Crusaders swept the series, 3-0.
"People may think I'm crazy, but we played good baseball today," said SIU head coach Ken Henderson. "Sometimes, you play well, and it just doesn't work out in your favor. They got a couple timely hits and we couldn't get anything to fall, and that was the difference. Offensively, we barreled up as many balls as we have in quite some time. We had a lot of good ABs today. The wind was blowing in; there were tough conditions; and we couldn't get anything to fall.
"Overall, though, we were good on defense and our effort was phenomenal. We were diving all over the place making plays. I'm proud that after a tough weekend, we were playing that hard. I know we don't have anything to show for it, but there was certainly something to build on."
Valpo (13-32, 6-12 MVC) took two walks to lead off the game and got a two-out RBI single to take a 1-0 lead. SIU (22-25, 4-14 MVC) tied the game in the third inning with a two-out rally. Nikola Vasic singled and stole second, and Will LaRue came through with the RBI single. LaRue went 4-for-9 with five walks in the series.
Offensively, Southern Illinois was led by J.T. Weber, who went 4-for-4 for his career-best day at the plate. Other than Weber, SIU struggled offensively, going 2-for-27, but SIU struck out only six times and drew six walks. Several hard-hit balls found Valpo gloves, and the Salukis left nine on base.
"(Weber) hit balls hard, stayed on balls and hit them in the middle of the field. He had a really good game," Henderson said. "A lot of guys had good games. Kenton Crawford and Austin Ulick hadn't played in a while, but they smoked a couple balls. Up and down the lineup, we took good swings. We just couldn't get anything to fall."
After the early trouble, SIU starter Matthew Steidl settled in and pitched well into the fifth inning. A two-out double in the fifth was followed by a walk and hit batsman to lead the bases. Valpo singled home two runs to break the tie and scored a third run on a Noah Farmer balk to set the final score, 4-1.
"A couple free passes to the wrong guys hurt us and got their better hitters up, but we only gave up five hits all game," Henderson said. "Give them credit: They got hits when they needed to, and that was the difference in the ball game."
Justin Yeager (1.2 IP) and Corey Mitson (1.0 IP) combined to pitch 2.2 scoreless innings down the stretch, allowing just one hit and walking just one between the two of them. Despite the sweep, SIU's pitching was good all series, posting a 3.94 series ERA and holding Valpo to a .239 batting average.
SIU closes the regular season with four games at Itchy Jones Stadium this week, starting with Tuesday's game against Saint Louis. SIU hosts Missouri Valley Conference co-leader Dallas Baptist this weekend for a three-game series starting Thursday.