Cougars Win OVC Opener Over Panthers

Ryan Daniels

EDWARDSVILLE, Ill. – SIUE baseball banged out 10 hits, including three home runs, and Ryan Daniels tossed a career-best 8 1/3 innings Friday as the Cougars won their Ohio Valley Conference opener 6-4 over Eastern Illinois at Simmons Baseball Complex.

"It was a good team win," SIUE Head Coach Tony Stoecklin said. "We pitched well, we got timely hitting, and we played good defense."

Daniels allowed three runs, all earned, on seven EIU hits. He walked just one and struck out six to improve to 2-0 on the season.

"Anytime your starting pitcher goes eight-plus innings and gives you an opportunity to win is a great outing," Stoecklin added. "He did what he has done all year. He attacked hitters. He pounds the strike zone and makes very few mistakes."

Eastern Illinois, now 2-13 overall and 0-1 in the OVC, opened the scoring against Daniels in the first inning. Caleb Howell doubled with two outs, and then scored on an RBI-single by Demetre Taylor.

The Cougars, who improved to 3-8 overall and 1-0 in the OVC, took the lead for good in the second inning against EIU starter Matt Borens. Skyler Geissinger opened the scoring with a one-out home run to left, his first home run of the year. Alec Saikal reached on an error and Brian Sipe singled before Jacob Stewart found the right-center field gap with a double to plate both runners. Nick Lombardo capped the scoring with a single to score Stewart from second base to put SIUE ahead 4-1.      

'We swung the bats well early," Stoecklin said. "Overall we scored six runs and it was enough to win. It's nice to score early. That's something we haven't done a whole lot of. It's nice to put the pressure on the other team."

Devin Caldwell led off the third inning with his second home run of the year. Lombardo followed suit with two outs in the fourth inning, with his first home run of the year to make it 6-1 SIUE.

"Devin's home run impressed me because of the distance," Stoecklin said. "That was an impressive, long home run."

Lombardo, Caldwell, and Geissinger each had two hits for the Cougars. Lombardo and Stewart each had a pair of RBIs.

Borens (0-2) allowed 6 runs, four earned, on 10 hits. He walked one and struck out seven. Borens began the game with an OVC-leading 0.47 earned run average.

Daniels settled in to hold the Panthers scoreless until the ninth inning. Howell led off the inning with an infield hit up the middle. Geissinger made a diving stop, but didn't have a play at first base. After Taylor popped up to second base, Montana Timmons connected on a two-run home run to left to make it 6-3.

P.J. Schuster relieved Daniels following the home run. Schuster surrendered back-to-back hits which plated the fourth EIU run, before retiring Panthers' catcher Jacob Reese on a flyout to left field and pinch hitter Matt Dunavant on a pop up to second base to earn his second save of the year.

"He got the job done," Stoecklin said of Schuster. "He's probably thinking he's not going to pitch and once he got out there it took him a couple of batters to get going and to start making pitches."

Timmons was 2 for 4 with the homer and two RBIs to lead the Panthers in the loss.

The Cougars and Panthers will play the second game of the three-game series Saturday. First pitch is scheduled for 1 p.m.