EDWARDSVILLE, Ill. - SIUE overcame a 3-1 deficit Saturday to defeat Austin Peay 4-3 to win the series and clinch a spot in its first-ever Ohio Valley Conference Tournament.
The Cougars finished the regular season at 21-31 overall and 16-14 in the OVC. The Cougars earned the No. 4 seed and will play fifth-seeded Morehead State at 3 p.m. Wednesday in the first round of the tournament at Jackson, Tennessee.
"We played a tough nonconference schedule," SIUE Head Coach Tony Stoecklin said. "It may hurt your overall record, but it builds toughness and it builds confidence. It helps when you get to your conference schedule."
The 16 conference wins are the most for the Cougars since joining the OVC.
"To go from ninth place last year to fourth place this year is a huge accomplishment," Stoecklin added. "The program is moving in the right direction."
Austin Peay (20-30, 14-16) put runners on base in both the seventh and eighth innings. Both times the Cougars turned a double play to get out of the inning.
"We were really solid on defense today," Stoecklin said. "Our defense kept some innings from getting away."
Zach Malach (2-1) earned the win in relief. Malach allowed a run on four hits over a career-best outing of 6 2/3 innings. He did not walk a batter and struck out four.
"Zach Malach was outstanding today," Stoecklin said. "That was an impressive performance."
Saturday also was senior day for Caldwell and pitcher Jake Stauffenberg.
"It's great to be able to send those two guys out with a trip to the tournament," Stoecklin said of his seniors. "They are a big part of why we got here. They are both huge contributors on the field and in the classroom. They represent this program in a positive manner at all times."