Florida college baseball teams, like football teams, have a big weather, and sometimes talent advantage. Even teams like mid-major Stetson – which was swept by Southern Illinois University’s men’s baseball team to start out its season at Melching Field – are at midseason form in February from practicing outside year-round.
Thus, it was a good sign for the 2017 season how the Diamond Dawgs responded to playing a series with one of them.
“Anytime you play a Florida team opening weekend and you come out 3-0,” said SIU head coach Ken Henderson, “That’s a hell of an accomplishment.”
This was a series in which the Dawgs pitching and hitting both shined as much as the Florida sun.
The offense scored in numerous ways, but one sequence was beyond belief. After going ahead of the Hatters 1-0 in the first inning of the third game Saturday, the Dawgs immediately scored three more in the second inning.
SIU loaded the bases again. Southern’s Jake Hand laced a screaming line-drive into the left field corner that hit the wall.
Then things got weird.
Apparently Stetson’s maintenance crew had forgotten to lock a chain link gate and when Stetson left fielder Austin Bogart crashed into the gate, it flew open. Bogart laid there stunned by the collision.
By the time the Stetson centerfielder got to the ball, Hand had scored along with the three of his teammates for an inside the ballpark grand slam. Bogart was shaken up, but survived.
Those eight runs stood up, even though Stetson came back with four of its own, for a 8-4 Saluki victory. SIU pitcher Joey Marciano got the win and Ryan Smith, Will Farmer and Drew Curtis helped the Dawg offense with numerous hits.
SIU’s Chad Whitmer was the winner in the Dawg’s 7-6 win Friday against Stetson.
Nick Hutchins, SIU’s catcher, had a key homerun and Ryan Wetemeyer got the save.
In the second win of the sweep, SIU ace Michael Baird pitched a three-hit shutout. In the 7-0 win, both Greg Lambert and Curtis had two RBIs and Will Farmer had three hits.
SIU plays at Austin Peay at Clarksville, Tennessee Wednesday at 4 p.m. Then the Dawgs start a three-game series Friday with Louisiana Monroe at 6 p.m.