CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo. – Cougar baseball put a stamp on SIUE's reclassification era Saturday, defeating Southeast Missouri State 24-7 in the final athletic contest the institution will play before full certification to NCAA Division I status.
SIUE finished the season with a 27-28 record overall and a 13-14 mark in Ohio Valley Conference play. SIUE finished sixth in the OVC, which would have qualified the Cougars for next week's OVC Championship had SIUE have been eligible.
"Today was excellent," SIUE Head Coach Gary Collins said. "That was one of our goals at the beginning of the year (to finish in the top six)."
Brett Keeler paced a potent attack in which all six seniors played prominent roles in their final games as Cougars. Keeler finished 4 for 5 with a home run, two doubles and a career-best eight RBIs.
"Keeler was out of site today," Collins said.
"The seniors had a great day and a great four years," Collins added.
Thad Hawkins pinch hit in the eighth inning and drove in a run in two at-bats, while also making two catches in right field. Hawkins began his career as an outfielder in 2008.
"Tony (Stoecklin) brought up the idea of getting him an at-bat," Collins said. "I thought it was an awesome thing to do."
"Here's a guy who came in as an outfielder, and after missing an entire year for cancer treatments, moved to the mound when we needed him to," Collins continued. "We couldn't have done what we did the last two years without him on the mound."
Brian Lorenz tossed 2 1/3 innings in relief, allowing one run, to earn the win and finish his senior season with a 5-0 record. Dustin Quattrocchi pitched the final three innings of the game to earn his 12th save of the season, the second most in a season in school history. It was the left-hander's 16th save of his career, good for fourth-most in school history.
"The seniors capped off their careers with a resounding victory," Collins said. "I couldn't have scripted it any better."
SIUE scored four runs in the first inning and again in the third to lead 8-0. Joel Greatting and Zach Hawkins each hit two-run homers in the first inning. Keeler's first bases loaded, three-run double came in the third. Southeast Missouri used a six-run fourth inning to cut into the lead. SIUE scored twice in the seventh on Keeler's two-run homer to go up 10-6. It was 10-7 when the Cougars scored five times in the seventh inning to go up 15-7. Matecki drove in two with a double. Keeler's second bases loaded, three-run double came as part of a seven-run eighth inning that pushed the Cougars' lead to 19-7. Zach Hawkins added a two-run double.
The 24 runs and 24 hits Saturday were both season-highs for the Cougars. The 24 runs were the most SIUE has scored since March 2009 when it also scored 24 runs in a win over Long Island. The 24 hits were the most for a Cougars team since making the move to Division I, and the most since collecting 28 hits vs. St. Joseph's in April 2008.
After finishing the first two years of reclassification with a combined 29 wins, Saturday's win gave SIUE a total record of 55-52 over the past two seasons.
"This is probably the most resilient team I have ever had," Collins said. "Every time I thought they may lie down, they responded like they did today."