TERRE HAUTE, Ind. – A four-run seventh inning was too much to overcome as Southern Illinois baseball dropped its Missouri Valley Conference Tournament opener to No. 4 Evansville 7-3 Wednesday morning at Bob Warn Field.
With the loss, the Salukis will faceoff with No. 7 Belmont in an elimination game Thursday at 8 a.m. CT/9 a.m. ET.
The Salukis (30-26) entered the seventh with a 3-2 lead, but a leadoff hit-by-pitch and a four-pitch walk sparked the Aces. Evansville would tie the game on a fielder's choice before eventually loading the bases once more. A single to center from Ty Rumsey was the lone hit in the inning as UE added two more runs on a bases-loaded walk and a fielding error to take a 6-3 advantage.
The Aces added an insurance run in the ninth before Southern looked to make things interesting in the bottom half of the frame. SIU put the first two batters of the inning on as Nathan Bandy singled and Matt Schark doubled to start things. Pier-Olivier Boucher later walked to load the bases, but Nate Hardman was able to sit down the Salukis to close the game out.
Southern started with a bang as Boucher smashed his 16th home run of the year to put the Salukis on top in the first inning of action. The home run moved the outfielder into fourth in the single-season home run list.
Evan Waggoner didn't wait long to get the Aces on the board as the catcher put UE on top with a two-run blast in the second inning.
Senior Kaeber Rog picked went for his second triple of the year on a ball down the line in right field to lead off the fourth. He came home to tie the game on a double off the bat of Steven Loden.
Southern jumped back in front in the sixth when Cole Christman brought in Bennett Eltoft on a sacrifice fly.
Bloemer (4-2) went six innings for the Salukis in the start, allowing four earned runs on three hits. The southpaw issued two walks and a hit-by-pitch during his outing.
Matthew Steidl faced just two batters in relief (entering with a 2-0 count), walking one batter. Paul Bonzagni pitched the final three innings, allowing one earned run and issuing four walks. As a staff, Southern walked eight (one intentionally) and hit one Aces batter.
Nick Smith pitched eight complete to earn the win for UE, improving to 5-3 on the season. The right-hander struck out three, allowed seven hits and three runs but did not allow a big inning by the Salukis.
SIU tallied just three base hits in the game while UE had seven.