SIU sweeps NIU, pushes winning streak to five games

CARBONDALE, Ill. – The Southern Illinois baseball team won both ends of a doubleheader against Northern Illinois to sweep the three-game series.

In the opener, SIU (8-8) led for nearly the entire game. NIU (4-10) scrambled for two runs in the sixth and two more in the eighth to take a 4-3 lead. In the bottom of the eighth, Connor Kopach led off with a walk, and Logan Blackfan crushed a two-run home run to give SIU the lead. After that, the floodgates opened, and SIU scored seven runs in the inning to win, 10-4.

In the second game, NIU took a 1-0 lead into the third inning. SIU loaded the bases with two outs, and Alex Lyon pounded a bases-clearing double into the left-center. Southern ran with the lead and swept the series with a 7-2 victory.

“We took care of business,” SIU head coach Ken Henderson said. “To me, the key to the day was two swings of the bat. Logan Blackfan in the first game, and Alex Lyon in the second game. Those are two big swings.”

Southern Illinois got two solid pitching performances. In the doubleheader opener, Jamison Steege allowed two runs in six innings. Trey McDaniel pitched five scoreless outs before NIU strung together a walk and two singles to take the lead. McDaniel got the final out of the inning to keep it a one-run game, and he earned the win after Blackfan’s homer and SIU’s seven-run bottom half.

“I’m proud of what we did in the first game,” Henderson said. “We led the whole game and gave it up. Then, Logan had a big swing, and we kept adding on.”

In the second game, Mason Hiser had his best start of the year and earned his first Division I win. Northern Illinois loaded the bases with nobody out and scored an unearned run on a sacrifice fly, but Hiser limited the damage to the one run. After that, he threw four scoreless frames.

“The key was him minimizing that,” Henderson said. “Two errors and two walks led to only one run. We talk all the time about minimizing the damage. After that, he got on a roll and threw a lot closer to the guy we think he’s going to be. He kept the ball down in the zone and threw strikes. His slider was better today than it’s been all year. He really competed for us.”

The Salukis stole nine bases in the doubleheader. For the season, SIU already has 43 stolen bases, nearly halfway to last year’s total of 100 stolen bases, which ranked 14th nationally.

“That’s the kind of baseball we want to play,” Henderson said. “I think it’s fun, and our kids think it’s fun. It’s demoralizing for other people. You put so much pressure on them. Everybody looks at the stolen bases, and that’s a big part of it, but it’s also going first-to-third. It’s also moving defenses around. People are out of position all the time. And what does it do to the pitcher? I guarantee when people prepare for us, the first thing they say is, ‘You have to control their running game.’ Having had to do that against other teams, I know that’s not fun.”

After starting the year 3-8, SIU has ripped off five-straight wins. The Salukis are back in action Tuesday at Arkansas State before hosting Illinois for a three-game series next weekend.

Box Score Game 1

Box Score Game 2


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