On Tuesday, Feb. 26, the Governors baseball team hosted Southern Illinois in a mid-week game from Raymond C. Hand Park as the Salukis of the Missouri Valley conference came in looking to end the five game winning streak held by Austin Peay.
The Govs would battle the tough weather conditions, and pull out a 11-8 win to improve their season record to 7-1.
Southern Illinois got on the board in the first inning with an RBI double by Ryan Casillas to score lead off man Jake Welch, but starting pitcher Zach Hall held the Salukis to allow the Govs’ bats to get going in the third.
After a walk by Rolando Gautier and single from Kevin Corey, second baseman Jordan Hankins singled to bring home Gautier. The leading RBI man for the Govs, Craig Massoni, continued his hot streak by adding another single to the inning to score Corey and Hankins.
The Salukis added another run in the fourth to make it 3-2 in favor of the Govs, then after a sacrifice fly by Matt Jones in the following frame, allowed another run to come across to even the score at 3-3.
But Austin Peay came back in the bottom half of the fifth to take the lead back as Massoni belted his second home run of the year, a two-run shot to right field, to make it 5-3 Govs.
As the rain came down at Raymond C. Hand Park, the momentum shifted to Southern Illinois in the sixth. A sacrifice bunt that caused relief pitcher Ryan Quick to make a throwing error, along with a sacrifice fly, tied the score at 5-5.
However, the Tennessee Sports Writers Association Baseball Player of the Week Hankins picked up a crucial RBI double in the bottom of the inning to allow the Govs to get the lead back.
“First of all, I’m very humbled by the award being Player of the Week,” Hankins said after the game. “We’re just playing good baseball as a whole and it was a dog fight tonight. It really was by battling the weather and conditions, and we knew we were going to have to score runs. They’re a good offensive team and had to score runs and battle. It was a great team win.”
The Govs increased the margin with another two RBIs from Massoni, who drove in six of Austin Peay’s eleven runs. Massoni now has 13 RBIs on the year and two home runs, and also admitted it was a tough game to win.
“Winning games like this is big,” stated Massoni. “Obviously, it’s cold, it’s wet, and tough to get it going. But we fought the whole way through, took advantage of opportunities when we needed to, and ended up scoring more runs than them in the end.”
A wild pitch led to another Govs run in the inning to make it 9-5.
The Salukis continued to battle back late in the game, putting two runs on the board with a double and sacrifice fly off Jared Carkuff, but Hunter Lindley came in to stop the bleeding with the bases loaded.
Mistakes continued to hurt Southern Illinois, which allowed the Govs to tack on two more runs off an error and bases loaded walk in the seventh.
Southern Illinois made a dent in the lead with a RBI single off Lindley, but Govs closer Tyler Rogers got out of the inning with a ground ball out. Rogers stayed in to pitch the ninth, and picked up his fifth save on the season to give the Govs the win.
Head coach Gary McClure was pleased with his team’s performance afterward.
“We were patient at the plate, drew walks, and when we got runners on, we got them in most of the time,” McClure said. “I thought our pitching was fine. Zach threw good and Quick came in and battled, and the rest of our guys threw good too. We just didn’t play good defense today and that hurt us.”
Austin Peay will be in action Friday, Saturday, and Sunday at Raymond C. Hand Park as the Michigan State Spartans come to town for a three-game series.