CARBONDALE – Key two-out hits, a solid starting effort by Dylan Givens and clutch bullpen work gave Southern Illinois University a 5-3 win over Eastern Illinois Tuesday.
Three of SIU’s five runs scored on two-out hits. Catcher Mitch Fairfield’s two-out single in the fourth chased home Logan Blackfan and Alex Lyon. Fairfield’s hit gave the Salukis a 3-2 lead, and advantage they never relinquished.
SIU added an insurance run in the sixth when Drew Curtis doubled with one out and then scored on Grey Epps’ base hit. Epps, a freshman third baseman batting in the eighth hole, had three of SIU’s nine hits.
“I was just seeing a lot more fastballs than I was in the past,” Epps said. “I saw a fastball earlier in the count, put a good barrel on it and got it in the hole.
“It’s definitely very beneficial for the team (when the bottom of the order hits). It shows every time the bottom produces, we put pressure on the defense and allow the top of the lineup to come up.”
While the sixth through eighth spots in the order had five hits, the top three hitters went 0-for-10.
“We talked about that a lot over the last couple of weeks,” said SIU coach Ken Henderson. “Early on those guys weren’t helping us much. We said if we get those guys going, we have a chance to be really good on offense. Now, we need to get the front half going again, and they will.”
That timely hitting made a winner of Givens, who threw 5.1 innings. This was the deepest Givens has gone into a game in three starts.
“We kind of went into it, if we get five out of him …,” said Henderson. “We need to continue to get him built up, but we felt really good to get five out of him. I think he just got a little tired. He did a really good job for us.”
Givens gave up just four hits through the first five innings, but allowed three hits in the sixth before being lifted in favor of Alex Gutermuth. Gutermuth entered the game with two on and one out, but retired the next two hitters.
When Eastern’s first two hitters in the seventh reached base, Henderson went to the bullpen again, replacing Gutermuth with Allen Montgomery. Montgomery, a Johnston City native, retired all three hitters he faced.
“A really good job by our bullpen throwing 3.2 of scoreless ball, and Gutermuth and Montgomery both came in to situations in the middle of innings in a little bit of a jam and both of them got out of it,” Henderson said.
Trey McDaniel pitched a scoreless eighth for the Salukis while Ryan Netemeyer, SIU’s all-time saves leader, locked down the game with his fifth save of the season.
“We battled,” Henderson said. “We talk about that all the time, guys battling and grinding out Abs We did a pretty good job of that. I do think we were a little better offensively than our numbers show, especially early. I think we some balls really hard and we hit some stuff right at them, but for whatever reason we couldn’t put many hits together.”
The 18-10 Salukis travel to Texas this weekend to play 25th ranked Dallas Baptist University. Dallas is just 2-1 in Missouri Valley Conference play while the Salukis are 4-2.
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