Baseball sweeps South Dakota State

Redshirt freshman outfielder Brady Bunten hits a grounder toward third base during the eighth inning of the Cougars' Sunday game against South Dakota State.

After two offensive-heavy wins on Friday and Saturday, the Cougars were able to pull a win from behind on Sunday against South Dakota State University with a final score of 4-3.


The Cougars dominated the Jackrabbits on Friday 11-3 and Saturday 6-1. Saturday’s starting pitcher Jake Bockenstedt, a sophomore, pitched seven full innings with no hits and 13 strikeouts. 


“Jake was tremendous on Saturday,” Head Coach Sean Lyons said. “Obviously, any time you give up zero hits and 13 strikeouts, you’re doing something right. Then the bullpen came in and closed it out for us [on Saturday].”


A combination of a strong defense offense and solid pitching allowed the Cougars to leave the Jackrabbits with just four earned runs through their Friday and Saturday games. Senior pitcher Rob Parks, said the performance of their starting pitchers was crucial in their wins. 


“[Bockenstedt] had a great outing,” Parks said. “[Sunday] was definitely a huge team win. Pitching let up a couple runs late in the game and our offense didn’t start out as hot as they had been the first two games.”


Within the first two innings of Friday’s game, the Cougars were leading 6-0, with the help of a pair of errors by the Jackrabbits. 


“We had a really good scouting report and approach into Friday, and our guys did a great job of executing,” Lyons said. “Taking what the pitcher was giving them and we kind of jumped on [their starting pitcher] early that got our confidence going.”


The Cougar offense was able to amass 28 hits over the three games. Five of the 28 came from senior third baseman Raul Elguezabal. With two outs in the eighth inning of Sunday’s game, he hit a double which brought in the game-tying run.


“I knew going up there they probably weren’t going to give me a fastball to hit, so I tried to stay patient and see a slider up in the zone,” Elguezabal said. “I got [the] pitch I wanted to get, but I didn’t hit it as hard as I wanted to, but it went through the infield and it scored the tying run.” 


Lyons said they were fortunate to have one of their trusted, returning players up to bat at the right time.


“Raul brings leadership,” Lyons said. “He’s not afraid of the big moment, [and] he’s a guy that we lean on. We know he’s going to give us a good, quality at-bat when he comes to the plate.”


Unlike the previous games, the Jackrabbits were able to score first in Sunday’s game and keep it close due to rocky SIUE pitching. Parks came in to pitch in the 7th and 8th innings, giving up three hits and a run that put the Jackrabbits up 3-1.


“You have to remind yourself that the next guy coming in is going to do his job and he is going to do what needs to be done,” Parks said. “[Redshirt senior Braydon] Bone came in and cleaned up my mess and put us in a situation where we [gave] the offense the chance to come back, and we did that.”


With little offensensive action at the beginning of Sunday’s game, coming into the inning Lyons said he wasn’t worried about winning or losing. 


“You’re never really thinking about whether you have doubts. You have confidence in your guys,” Lyons said. “We talked about it in the middle innings, keep grinding away. Some point in time you’re going to get a pitch to hit. We had some miscues that we overcame in that inning, [and we] got the home run to pull within one. They knew if they kept grinding away, they would have a pretty good opportunity at winning the ball game.”


Cougar baseball plays next at 4 p.m. Friday March 12 at Simmons Complex in Edwardsville against Southeast Missouri State University.


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