Salukis' rally makes Chavez the winner

Wednesday, March 24, 2004

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- Jason Chavez couldn't have picked a better opponent to notch his first Division I victory against.

Chavez, a Central High School graduate, pitched two scoreless innings and received credit for the win when Southern Illinois rallied for a 6-5 victory over Southeast Missouri State University on a cold, windy Tuesday afternoon at Abe Martin Field.

The Salukis, winning for the fourth time in five games, improved to 4-13. The Indians, losing their second straight after compiling a four-game winning streak, fell to 8-10 heading into today's 6 p.m. home matchup with Missouri.

"It's great to get my first win, and being against SEMO, it's definitely a plus," Chavez said. "I definitely wanted to win more than anybody else out here."

Chavez, a junior right-hander who played the past two seasons at Mineral Area College, had lost his only previous decision this year. Appearing strictly in relief, Chavez had pitched only eight innings prior to Tuesday -- his earned-run average was a solid 3.38 -- but if he was down about his lack of work, he didn't show it.

"I've been put in the spot of middle relief and I just do what I can do," he said. "We have a lot of senior pitchers who deserve their shot."

Chavez, who pitched the past two summers for the Cape Girardeau Capahas, blanked Southeast in the seventh and eighth innings -- he allowed two hits and struck out one -- to keep the Indians' lead at 5-4.

After SIU scored twice in the bottom of the eighth and held Southeast in the ninth, Chavez was the winner. That it came in front of his father, Mike, Southeast's offensive line coach for football, made things even better.

"He's come to all the home games so far and it was good to have him here for my first win," Chavez said.

While Chavez was able to celebrate his good fortune, the Indians were left with an empty feeling after three errors -- all by shortstop Ernie Bracamonte -- allowed SIU to score four unearned runs, including the game-winner.

Southeast outhit SIU 14-10 but was simply too generous, according to coach Mark Hogan. The Salukis drove in just one run Tuesday; three scored directly on errors and two more came home on wild pitches.

"We just played horrible defense. It was a bad day for us," Hogan said. "We had 14 hits, but we didn't bunch them together."

Bracamonte and Gary Gilbert each had three hits. Bryan Kurt and freshman Andres Fernandez added two apiece.

But Southeast's offense, after scoring four runs in the first three innings -- the Indians held leads of 3-0, 4-2 and 5-3 -- managed just one run over the final six frames against three SIU relievers, including Andrew Weber, who fanned the side in the ninth for a save.

"We let them hang around and they came back to beat us," Gilbert said.

SIU, which never led until the eighth, reached reliever Ryan Forsyth for a walk and a single with one out. On came closer Brad Smith, who was immediately touched for pinch-hitter Ryan Schooley's RBI single that tied the contest at 5-5.

Kevin Koski's infield single that was stopped by a diving Bracamonte would have only loaded the bases, but when Bracamonte's throw to third was wild, Nathan Boldt scored the winning run.

Forsyth (1-2) took the loss despite four solid innings of one-run ball prior to the eighth, as he helped keep Southeast ahead.

Nathan Emrick led SIU with three hits.

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