Illinois State baseball took on No. 28 Southern Illinois for its first Missouri Valley Conference game in 685 days over the weekend.
"What a series by our guys! We did a great job of keeping the pedal to the metal all weekend," ISU head coach Steve Holm told goredbirds.com. "With these four-game series, there will inevitably be a slugfest or two and our guys kept slugging. Colton [Johnson] and [Jordan] Lussier really set the tone early for us on the mound. We had multiple guys swing it well but [Jordan Libman] and [Tyson] Hays made it tough on their pitchers in the middle of our order."
The Redbirds took the series opener on Friday before splitting Saturday’s doubleheader. ISU’s hot bats in Sunday’s finale propelled them to take three of the four games in Carbondale.
Friday | ISU 11 SIU 3
The Redbirds took care of business in a high-hitting conference opener as they topped the Salukis 11-3. ISU registered 13 hits while SIU tallied 12 hits.
Tyson Hays opened the scoring for the Redbirds with a solo shot in the first inning. Jack Butler followed that up in the third inning with an RBI single.
ISU blew open their lead in the sixth inning with five runs. Kyler Soberano drove in two runs with a single before Butler got walked with the bases loaded to make it 5-0. Hays increased the Redbirds’ lead to seven with a two-RBI single.
Salukis got on the board in the bottom of the sixth, but they left the bases loaded. SIU left a total of 17 batters on base.
The Redbirds added four more runs in the eighth to make it a 10-run lead. Salukis added two more but fell in the opener by eight.
Colton Johnson pitched five scoreless innings and allowed five hits. He became the ninth Redbird to reach 200 career strikeouts as he struck out four on Friday. Hays led the offensive attack, going 3-for-5 with a home run and four RBIs.
Saturday | ISU 6 SIU 3
The Salukis jumped out to a two-run lead, but the Redbirds tied the game up in the second. Hayden Jones singled to drive in the first run and Soberano drew a based loaded walk on 13 pitches.
Jones followed that up with another RBI single and a two-run home run to give ISU a 5-2 lead. He finished the first game with a career-high four RBIs and tied a career-high with three hits.
SIU added another run in the bottom of the fifth, but Aidan Huggins put ISU’s lead back up to three with a home run.
Derek Salata recorded his fourth save of the season to help the Redbirds take game one of the doubleheader 6-3.
Saturday | SIU 8 ISU 4
SIU once again jumped out to an early lead in the first inning, but Jordan Libman put the ’Birds up one in the third, driving in two runs. Their lead wouldn’t last long as the Salukis scored three runs in the bottom of the frame to make it 4-2.
The Redbirds kept the game close until the sixth inning. An ISU error proved to be costly as two Saluki runs came around to score, making it 7-4 SIU.
The Salukis added another run in the following inning to take game two over the Redbirds 8-4.
Sunday | ISU 14 SIU 11
Jack McCaw drove in the game’s opening run with a single into right field. Then Jordan Libman crosses the plate off a Saluki error to quickly make it 2-0 Redbirds. Sean Sinisko followed that up with a three-up, three-down outing in the bottom of the frame.
The Redbirds added three more runs with no outs in the top of the fourth. After an RBI from Butler, the Redbirds crossed the plate for the sixth time on a wild pitch followed by another RBI from Hays. ISU added another to make it 8-0.
SIU broke through in the bottom of the fifth. Facing two outs, the Salukis loaded up the bases for J.T. Weber, who launched a grand slam to cut the deficit in half.
Down 13-7, Weber launched his second home run of the game to make it 13-7 ISU in the bottom of the seventh. Then in the ninth down seven, the Salukis add four runs to make it a three-run game.
Illinois State survived the scare from SIU late in the game to win 14-11. Sunday’s victory marks the first time this season the Redbirds have won the series finale.
In the victory, Hays became the first ISU catcher to steal two bases in a game since Matt Mirabal in 2011.
Illinois State returns at 5 p.m. April 9 at Duffy Bass Field for the first of a four-game series against No. 25 Indiana State. Follow @Vidette_Sports on Twitter for live coverage throughout the series.