EDWARDSVILLE, Ill. – Another quick getaway powered the explosive SIUE Cougars to a rocking performance Saturday at Roy E. Lee Field.
The Cougars rolled past Eastern Illinois 22-8 for their second win in two days and their fifth consecutive Ohio Valley Conference victory. SIUE, benefiting from a season-best scoring and hit output, improved to 23-25 overall and 11-15 in the OVC. Eastern Illinois dropped to 18-33 and 10-16.
A six-run first inning set the stage for the Cougars' lopsided victory that featured nine players contributing to the 23-hit attack, which included three home runs. It was the most runs a SIUE squad scored since the final game of 2012 when the Cougars won 24-7 at Southeast Missouri.
"It was a great way to start the game and we had numerous two-out hits to keep the inning extended," SIUE Head coach Sean Lyons said. "And it was really a good day for us offensively. We had a lot of guys contributing and that's what it takes to be successful."
On Friday, the Cougars erupted for five first-inning runs to defeat Eastern Illinois 11-3. SIUE has scored 33 runs in the series and the Cougars are averaging more than 10 runs per game in their last 12 games.
"It's nice to have a series win, but we want to keep putting w's in the win column," Lyons said
SIUE will go for the series sweep at 1 p.m. Sunday on Senior Day for the Cougars. The Mother's Day game is SIUE's final home game of the season. The Cougars close their regular-season schedule next weekend with three games at Jacksonville State. They are fighting for a berth in the eight-team OVC Tournament, beginning May 23 in Oxford, Ala.
"We all knew that at a minimum we had to win the series against Eastern," SIUE second baseman Alec Skender said. "Now, we want to sweep the series."
Skender, a senior from Metamora, Illinois, has ignited the Cougars' high-octane offense. The leadoff hitter went 5-for-6 with a home run, four RBIs and scored four times Saturday. He has reached base nine times in the series.
"As he goes, we go," Lyons said of Skender, the Cougars' catalyst. "He's the guy at the top of the lineup that sparks us."
Skender's three-run home run in the fifth was his second of the season. His eighth-inning single was his fifth hit, making him only the sixth SIUE player in their Division I history to achieve that feat.
"I don't know if I have ever had five hits in a game," Skender said. "I've been choking up more on the bat and I feel like I have more bat control now. What I try to do is get on base for the Nos. 2-3-4 hitters to drive me in all the time."
Goecks, a freshman outfielder, went 3-for-4 with four RBIs, including a two-run single in the second inning and solo home run in the fourth.
"He has a lot of potential and is starting to come around," Lyons said. "He has done a nice job for us."
That's music to Goecks' ears.
"I guess I'm playing with more confidence now," said Goecks, who has six RBIs thus far in the series. "I know that everybody is behind me and supporting me. We have a good group of guys and if we continue to play our brand of baseball, we can get the job done.
He noted, "Our brand is aggressive baseball and putting pressure on the other team."
Third baseman Jordan Stading put plenty of pressure on the Panthers The senior from Houston, Texas went 4-for-5 with a double, knocked in four runs and reached base five times. Teammate Jared McCunn went 3-for-4, reached base four times and drove home four runs. Keaton Wright, Brock Weimer and Mario Tursi all had two hits to back winning pitcher Brock Fulkerson. Giltz collected three RBIs.
Wright, a senior from Troy, Illinois, blasted his 11th home run of the season and 25th of his career in the fourth inning. His two-run shot tied him for fourth place with Mark Briggs for career homers.
In addition, Wright drew two walks, giving him a school-record 113 for his career. Granite City, Illinois native Tim Hogan owned the previous mark of 111 career walks. Wright also has 222 career hits.
"Brock got an early lead and managed himself well," Lyons said.
Jimmy Govern was 3-for-3 with a walk to pace Eastern Illinois. Hunter Beetley also had three hits and Frankie Perrone smacked a three-run home run (No. 10) in the second inning. Michael McCormick, the first of six EIU pitchers, absorbed the defeat. He gave up eight hits and nine runs in 1.2 innings.