Cougars Split Doubleheader, Win Series From Gamecocks

Jacob Stewart (17) and Nick Lombardo (12) accept congratulations from teammates
Jacob Stewart (17) and Nick Lombardo (12) accept congratulations from teammates

EDWARDSVILLE, Ill. – The top three in the SIUE order combined for 9 hits and seven RBIs Saturday as the Cougars got past Jacksonville State 9-8 in the second game of a doubleheader. The Gamecocks earned a 5-2 win in the early game at Simmons Baseball Complex.

The Cougars improved to 4-2 in the Ohio Valley Conference with the 2-1 series win over the Gamecocks. SIUE is 6-10 overall. Jacksonville State also is 4-2 in OVC play. The Gamecocks are 11-8 overall.

"It was a good weekend," SIUE Head Coach Tony Stoecklin said. "Jacksonville State year-in and year-out is a quality program in our league and it's nice to take two out of three from them."

Nick Lombardo, Chase Green, and Devin Caldwell who batted one, two, and three respectively, paced the Cougar attack that finished with 13 hits in the final game. Caldwell was 3 for 4 with four RBIs. After being held hitless in the first game, and through his first two plate appearances in the second game, Caldwell picked up an RBI single in the fourth inning, a two-run home run in the sixth inning, and a solo homer in the eighth inning.

"Yesterday and the first game today I was pressing. I felt like I was trying to do too much," Caldwell said. "I had to relax. It worked out for me. I just wanted to get a good pitch to hit. I just kind of settled in. I was thinking up the middle or hit it the other way."

Caldwell's home run in the sixth opened up an 8-4 lead for SIUE, but JSU closed the gap with a solo home run by Stephen Bartlett in the seventh and an RBI single from Bartlett in the eighth inning to make it 8-6. Bartlett finished the game 3 for 4 with two RBIs.

Caldwell's eighth inning home run pushed the Cougars lead to 9-6, but the Gamecocks got a two-run home run from Ryan Sebra to cut the lead to 9-8.

"He struggled early on, but he made a couple of adjustments," Stoecklin said of Caldwell. "We really needed those home runs it was the difference in the ballgame."

Caldwell now has a team-best five home runs this season and 28 for his SIUE career, which is second all-time at SIUE.

Green was 3 for 4 with two doubles, a single, a walk, and three RBIs. Lombardo was 3 for 5 with three runs scored.

"We've been grinding out at-bats and finding ways to get guys across the plate," Stoecklin said.  I don't particularly think we're playing out best yet, but we're playing tough and we're playing gritty."

Evan Martens (1-2) earned his first collegiate win in the start. He allowed five runs over six innings. He struck out two and walked one. Jarrrett Bednar tossed 2 2/3 innings of relief, allowing three runs. P.J. Schuster earned his third save of the year facing a single hitter to end the game.  

"Evan Martens did a great job on the mound today in the start," Stoecklin added. "Jarrett Bednar did a good job coming in, pounding the strike zone and keeping us in the game and P.J. coming in getting that last out was huge."

Jacksonville State got a leadoff home run from Michael Bishop in the first inning of game one and never trailed in the game. The Gamecocks scored three times in the third against Cougar starter Jake Stauffenberg to lead 4-0. Michael Bishop was 2 for 4 with 2 RBIs in the game.

Stauffenberg settled in to throw a career-high eight innings, allowing just the four runs, three earned, on five hits. He struck out five hitters, one shy of his career high.

Stoecklin said Stauffenberg, who was 3-3 in 17 relief appearances last year, needs to get off to a better start.

"We're going to try to capture that same mindset that he had last year out of the pen," Stoecklin said. "Once he locks in he's pretty good. He went deep into the ballgame and did give us a chance to win."  

The Cougars scored their only two runs in the bottom of the ninth inning. SIUE got RBIs from Zach Little and Austin Verschoore in the losing effort.

The Cougars finish an eight-game home stand with a doubleheader Tuesday against Illinois State. First pitch of the day comes at 2 p.m. 

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