EDWARDSVILLE, Ill. – Mario Tursi hit his first home run of the season, but that was the extent of the SIUE offense in the Cougars' home opener Friday.
Tennessee Tech used strong pitching and a resourceful attack to defeat SIUE 4-1 in Ohio Valley Conference action at Simmons Baseball Complex.
The defending OVC champion Golden Eagles improved to 12-5 overall and 3-1 in the league. The Cougars dropped to 5-10 and 1-3. They managed only three hits and struck out 11 times against a pair of Tennessee Tech pitchers.
"They are a very good team, a veteran one and a very confident group," SIUE Head Coach Sean Lyons said of the Golden Eagles. "They scored some runs early in the game and were able to manufacture some of them."
Lyons added: "We're trying to address what we are doing offensively because we are struggling right now. Getting three hits and striking out 11 times isn't acceptable. We just didn't play well. We have to find a way to come together and get better."
Tursi, the Cougars' senior shortstop, blasted a home run over the left field fence in the third inning to slice the Golden Eagles' lead to 3-1. It was Tursi's first home run of the season and the sixth of his collegiate career.
"It was a fast ball up and in and I thought I hit it good," Tursi said of his solo shot at Roy E. Lee Field. "I think of the six home runs I've hit, five have been here. I like playing in our home park."
He also knows his role in the SIUE lineup.
"I'm trying to get the team over the hump to the top and get on base as much as I can," Tursi said.
Osborne's RBI single in the second inning gave Tennessee Tech a 1-0 lead and the winners took advantage of a run-scoring ground out and squeeze bunt to score twice in the third. The Golden Eagles added a run in the fourth and then let pitchers Travis Moths and Ethan Roberts take charge.
Moths, lifting his record to 4-1, worked six innings and he allowed three hits while striking out eight. Roberts pitched three hitless innings and struck out three more Cougars.
All figured, Moths and Roberts retired the final 17 SIUE batters. Brock Weimer's double with one-out in the fourth inning was the Cougars' last hit. Jared McCunn's single in the second was their first hit. Tursi's home run came in between those hits.
"Moths did a nice job and kept us off-balance," Lyons said. "But we need to be better offensively."
Tursi noted, "They threw a good pitcher at us and our bats have started out slowly. But I expect us to come around."
So does Lyons. He saw positive signs from starting pitcher Nelson Martz and reliever Chris Robinson. Martz, now 1-3, absorbed the defeat after allowing 10 hits and four runs in seven innings. Robinson pitched two scoreless innings.
"Nelson did a nice job mixing his pitches and after the first couple of innings, he settled in and pitched a lot better," Lyons said. Martz threw 100 pitches in his longest outing of the season. He struck out one and walked five. Robinson fanned three and walked two in two innings.
Catcher Brennon Kaleiwahea went 3 for 4 to pace Tennessee Tech's 11-hit offense. Teammates Kevin Strohschein and John Ham both were 2-for-4. The Golden Eagles also benefited from seven walks, though they stranded 11 runners.
The Cougars and Golden Eagles are scheduled to resume their three-game weekend series at 1 p.m. Saturday. The finale follows at 1 p.m. Sunday.