CARBONDALE - The SIU Salukis scored twice in the eighth inning to overcome a 2-1 deficit and defeat nationally ranked Dallas Baptist 3-2 Thursday night at Itchy Jones Stadium.
"We gave great effort all night," SIU head coach Ken Henderson said. "Guys were locked in; we played our tails off. I couldn't be more proud of our mental approach and the effort we gave. Beyond that, it's about the pitching. Mason Hiser pitched, without a doubt, his best game as a Saluki. He had great command of all his pitches, and he kept them off ballance. Yeager came in and did a phenomenal job. That's why we put him back out there in the ninth inning--he was just that special tonight."
Hiser and Yeager combined to pitch a gem for SIU (24-25, 5-14 MVC), allowing just four hits and two runs (one earned) over nine innings against the high-powered DBU offense. Hiser allowed just two runs in six innings while getting 13 swings and misses from a DBU offense that leads the MVC in scoring. The only run he allowed was a solo homer to reigning National Player of the Week Bryce Ball, who hit his sixth home run in the last five games.
"My bullpen this week was phenomenal," Hiser said. "I turned to (associate head coach P.J. Finigan) after I threw a slider and said, 'If I throw it like that on Thursday, they won't touch it.' He started laughing. I had that confidence from that bullpen and took it to the mound tonight."
But the Patriots (36-16, 12-7 MVC) still took a 2-1 lead into the eighth inning, and they had ace reliever Burl Carraway on the mound, who hadn't allowed a run in 13.2 innings coming into the game. Carraway has been up to 98 mph with his fastball this year.
The Salukis nearly got to Carraway in the seventh inning, when both Grey Epps and Nikola Vasic barreled up pitches, but Vasic's two-out bases-loaded drive died at the warning track.
SIU started the game-winning rally with a one-out triple by Ian Walters, and Walters tied the game by scoring on a wild pitch. With two outs, Aiden McMahan drew a walk. With a full count on J.T. Weber, McMahan was off with the pitch and scored from first base on Weber's looping single into right field.
"The offense was good all night," Henderson said. "We had good ABs all night. We had some timely hits, but we also hit some balls really hard in crucial situations right at them. They're obviously a good ball club and made some big-time plays. We were talking in the dugout about continuing to battle. Don't change a thing. All of the sudden, we got a couple to fall and found a way to win."
Yeager, who had pitched two perfect innings prior to SIU taking the lead, pitched a perfect ninth and earned the win.
"We were swinging it pretty well, and you're asking him to keep the score right where it's at until you find a way, and that's exactly what he did," Henderson said of Yeager. "In the ninth, it's a tough call because we have a great closer, but Yeager was just too special tonight. Everything was down in the zone. He was throwing too well to get him out of there."
SIU won its seventh-straight game at home and improved to 19-7 at Itchy Jones Stadium this year. Dallas Baptist, which came into the game tied for the Missouri Valley Conference lead, fell a game back to Illinois State in the MVC title hunt.
The second game of the series is Friday night at Itchy Jones Stadium.
Notes: SIU improved to 19-7 at Itchy Jones Stadium and won its seventh-straight home game ... SIU is 28 games over .500 at home since 2016 (70-42-1) ... SIU is 15-2 when allowing four runs or fewer ... SIU is 19-4 when out-hitting an opponent, or when hits are tied ... J.T. Weber extended his reached base streak to 11 games and posted his third-straight multi-hit game (Weber is 9-for-13 [.692] in his last three games) ... SIU earned its second win over a ranked opponent this year ... In the RPI, SIU earned its second top-30 win and seventh top-100 win of the year ... SIU men's basketball head coach Bryan Mullins threw out the ceremonial first pitch.