EDWARDSVILLE, Ill. – A quick start and fast finish Friday propelled the SIUE Cougars to an 11-3 win over Eastern Illinois in the opener of a pivotal Ohio Valley Conference weekend series at Lee Field.
The Cougars scored five times in the first inning and then used a four-run eighth to win their fourth consecutive OVC game and catch EIU in the league standings. SIUE, which improved to 22-25, is 10-15 in conference competition, the same as the Panthers. Overall, EIU is 18-32.
"We came out of the chute swinging the bats and took advantage of some things," said first-year SIUE Head Coach Sean Lyons, an EIU graduate.
Both teams are battling for one of the final spots in the conference tournament, set for May 23-28 in Oxford, Ala. Eight of the 11 OVC will qualify. The Cougars and Panthers are scheduled to play at 2 p.m. Saturday and 1 p.m. Sunday at Simmons Baseball Complex.
"Both teams are trying to get to the tournament and both know what's at stake," Lyons said.
Martz lifted his record to 7-4 with a strong performance, covering a season-high 7 2/3 innings and 121 pitches. He held the Panthers scoreless until the fifth and survived Logan Beaman's inside-the-park home run to center field in a two-run eighth. SIUE relievers Mason McReaken and Michael Shereyk recorded the final four outs.
"I got in a groove early and started cruising," said Martz, the ace of the staff. "I rank it up there as one of my better efforts of the season. The East Alton, Ill. resident and Roxana High graduate, struck out six and walked one. Dad Randy, a former major league pitcher and head baseball coach at Lewis and Clark Community College, was on hand to see his son pitch.
"Dad gets to quite a few of my games," Nelson Martz said
SIUE gave Martz a five-run lead and that enabled him to pitch without constant pressure.
"Nelson didn't bend and after we got that five-run lead, he was one cruise control most of the game," Lyons said. "They (Panthers) came back on us in the eighth, but we tacked on a few runs and that gave us some breathing room."
Weimer added, "He (Martz) had a good slider that was working well and he was able to mix up his pitches. He takes a lot of pride in being our Friday night guy."
And Weimer takes ample pleasure in his hitting. He went 3-for-4, reached base four times and drove in three runs. Weimer, who has a team-best 47 RBIs, continued his hot hitting at home. He's batting .362, with 23 runs batted in, at Roy E. Lee Field.
"My jobs is to drive in runs and I take a lot of pride in that," he said. "This is really a big series for us and those five runs in the first inning were huge. They set the tone for the rest of the game and it was a great way to start the weekend."
Weimer's RBI double proved to be one of the key hits in the big first inning. Dustin Woodcock contributed a two-run double and Aaron Goecks collected a two-run single. Eric Giltz drove in a run on a squeeze bunt.
Weimer added a run-scoring single in the fourth and the Cougars scored an unearned run in the sixth. Woodcock stroked a two-run triple in the eighth, while Jordan Stading and Weimer supplied RBI singles. Woodcock, Alec Skender and Jared McCunn all had two hits and Skender reached base four times. All figured, eight starters hit safely as the Cougars accumulated 13 hits.
"Dustin had a big hit and Brock has been a clutch hitter for us all season," Lyons said. "As a team, we've done a nice job lately of swinging the bats."
Lyons hopes the Cougars can extend their winning ways the rest of the weekend and next week when they close their regular-season schedule at Jacksonville State.
"We need to continue to put check marks in the win column," he said.