In took 10 innings, but the University of Evansville baseball team earned a home win over Southern Illinois Friday night, as senior Jason Hockemeyer drove in the game-winning run with a single through the right side to give the Purple Aces' their first win over Salukis at Braun Stadium since 2007.
"It was a hard-fought win that finally went our way, as we were able to win a one-run game in walk-off fashion," head coach Wes Carroll said. "There was obviously a lot of emotion involved, but it came down to Kyle (Freeland) settling into the game. He worked around a lot of adversity, with a lot of leadoff runners on base, but it shows a lot of character and a lot of grit for him to be able to work out of that against a quality opponent."
Both starting pitchers, sophomore Kyle Freeland for Evansville (13-17, 4-3 MVC) and Cody Forsythe for Southern Illinois (13-15, 0-4 MVC) each tossed 9.0 innings for their respective teams, before the bullpen took over in the extra frame. Freeland allowed two runs on seven hits and struck out six, while Forsythe also allowed a pair of runs on seven hits and fanned four Aces.
Senior Jake Naumann (1-1) earned the win for UE by tossing a scoreless 10th, while Aaron Synder (2-4) was saddled with the loss after giving up an unearned run on Hockemeyer's game-winning single.
"It was great to see Jason set up and deliver the big blow for us, especially since he was swinging under everything the entire night," Carroll said. "He was able to make an adjustment during the game and barrel up a pitch, which is what we needed to pick up a teammate."
Freshman Shain Showers was the only Evansville batter to record multiple hits, as the shortstop went 2-for-4 with an RBI. Redshirt sophomore Kevin Kaczmarski drove in the Aces' other run on a sacrifice fly and finished 1-for-3.
In the top of the first, Southern Illinois loaded the bases, before Freeland was able to get the first out of the ballgame on a sacrifice fly by Austin Montgomery that scored Jake Welch and gave the Salukis a 1-0 lead. Freeland was able to work out of the jam and hold SIU to just the one run, as he got Donny Duschinsky to ground in to an inning-ending double play.
UE tied the game at 1-1 in the bottom of the third on a sacrifice fly of its own. Redshirt junior Nick Hathcoat led off the inning with a double to left center, before moving to third on a sacrifice bunt from David Patton. Kaczmarski then drove in Hathcoat with a fly ball to deep right field that was caught on the warning track.
Freeland pitched out of another jam in the third, while Forsythe kept Evansville from scoring in the fifth, after the first two hitters of the inning were able to reach.
The Salukis regained the lead by scoring a run in the top of the seventh on a sacrifice fly off the bat of Ryan Rosthenhausler, but the Aces were able to get the run back in the bottom of the inning. Sophomore Kyle Pollock delivered a leadoff single, moved to third on a sacrifice bunt by senior Andy Lasher and scored on Showers' RBI single through the left side to make the score 2-2.
Neither team was able to score in the eighth or the ninth, as Freeland struck out the side in order in the ninth and Forsythe retired all three ninth-inning batters he faced to send the game to extra innings.
Naumann allowed a one-out hit in the top of the extra frame, before UE captured the win in the bottom of the inning.
After Hathcoat lined out on a sharply hit ball to the SIU second baseman, Patton was able to reach on a two-base throwing error. Patton was able to advance to third on a wild pitch out of the hand of Synder, as he was attempting to intentionally walk Kaczmarski. Junior Johnny Day popped out in foul ground for the second out of the inning, but Hockemeyer was able to give Evansville the win with a hit through the gap on the left side of the infield that was created, when Kaczmarski broke for second, drawing the Southern Illinois shortstop out of position.
"The last play was a situation where we wanted to get the middle of their infield moving around, as all we needed was some contact there" Carroll added. "Hockemeyer gets down the line really well and we just needed contact there to score the run."
The extra-inning affair was Evansville's first of the season, while the Salukis have now played five extra-inning games in their last 11 contests.
"It was great to see our guys fight, stay with it and get a good, competitive win," Carroll said. "Now we need our guys to come to the yard hungry tomorrow. We can't come in complacent and have a letdown."
The Aces will look to win game two of the series with SIU tomorrow, with the first pitch slated for 2 p.m. Kyle Lloyd will start for UE, while Southern Illinois will counter with Derek Fogel.
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