DeLand, Fla. - On a breezy day that did no favors for either pitching staff, it was Southern Illinois (7-4) who produced the necessary results out of the bullpen, keeping the Penn bats mostly silent over the final five innings en route to an 11-4 win on Sunday afternoon at Stetson's Melching Field. Matt Gotschall took the loss on the mound for the Quakers, who fell to 0-3 on the season.
It was an inauspicious top half of the first inning for the Penn defense, as SIU had the first four batters of the game reach base to take a 2-0 lead, the last of which resulted in an outfield collision between Greg Zebrack in center and Ryan Deitrich in right. With Rick Brebner inserted into Deitrich's spot in the line-up, the game resumed and a 4-6-3 double play from Cody Dillabough to Kyle Toomey to Spencer Branigan helped limit the damage, though the Salukis would add one more run to their total before Penn had a chance to bat.
The Quakers came back in the bottom half as Brandon Engelhardt, Zebrack and Branigan got on to load the bases with one away. A deep sac fly to center from Brebner brought Engelhardt in to make it 3-1 in favor of Southern Illinois after one.
Gotschall settled into a rhythm through the second and third innings, retiring eight straight at one point as the Quakers struck back with two runs in the bottom of the third to tie the score at 3-3. After Engelhardt led off the inning taking a free pass to first, he was advanced on to third base on a Toomey grounder misplayed by the second baseman. Zebrack got him home with a fielder's choice ground ball that SIU wasn't able to turn two on. With Zebrack on base, he moved to second on a wild pitch and then onto third as Southern Illinois committed its second error of the inning, starting pitcher Nathan Dorris missing the base on a Branigan grounder towards first. Brebner was able to collect his second RBI of the game with a base hit to left.
With one away in the top of the 4th, SIU was finally able to use the prevailing wind to its advantage as Nick Johnson knocked a solo shot out of the park to give the Salukis a 4-3 lead. It was short-lived however, as a Derek Vigoa lead-off single in the bottom half gave way to a perfectly executed hit-and-run to a wide-open right side of the infield by Engelhardt, moving Vigoa to third base. With a 1st and 3rd situation, John Cole went back to the well, calling for a second straight hit-and-run from Toomey, who found another hole in the SIU defense, tying the score at 4-4.
Things fell apart for Penn in the fifth inning. Though SIU's nine-hole hitter reached on a single, he was erased on the basepaths expecting a passed ball on a pitch in the dirt, getting gunned down by Vigoa at second base. That stemmed the tide for a moment but lead-off man Jake Welch caused havoc, drawing a walk, stealing second and advancing to third on the throw, then finally coming home on a wild pitch for a 5-4 lead. Two batters later, Chris Serritella made it 7-4 with a two-run blast to right-center, closing the book on Gotschall in the process.
Though plenty of baseball was left to be played, Southern Illinois put the clamps on Penn over the final five frames, scattering three hits and a total of only five baserunners over the final 15 outs. The Salukis struck for four more runs in the top of the 7th to put the Quakers in an even more dire position and they couldn't recover.
Engelhardt went 2-for-4 out of the lead-off spot and reached a third time on a base on balls. Brebner also collected two hits in the game. Alex Ott and Mike Zuppe combined for 2.2 innings of scoreless relief.
Penn will travel to Winter Haven, Fla. on Monday to take part in the Russ Matt Tournament. The Quakers play their first game there on Tuesday morning at 11 a.m. against the Bowling Green State Falcons.
Download: SIU 11, Penn 4.pdf