CEDAR CITY, Utah - April 17 - Southern Utah batters combined to hit eight home runs over the course of two games on Friday afternoon as the Thunderbirds posted victories of 18-12 and 8-4 in a doubleheader sweep against Western Illinois University. The wins move the T-Birds to 19-14 overall and 9-1 in the Summit League while WIU drops to 7-21 and 3-7 in conference.
Southern Utah had to play from behind in both games with the Leathernecks taking an early 5-0 lead in game one going into the bottom of the second inning. However, a lead-off home run from the bat of Chester Wilson, a two-run shot over the fence in left center by Keli'i Zablan and an RBI single by Bo Cuthbertson trimmed the lead to 5-4 after the home half of the second.
Another run for Western in the top of the third made the game 6-4 before a five-run fourth inning turned the tide to the Thunderbirds' favor. Matt Sanford scored three of the runs in the frame on his first ever home run in his baseball career. Nick Freitas and Bucky Aona each recorded an RBI in the frame on a sacrifice fly and single, respectively.
The lead continued to grow for the T-Birds with seven runs over the next two innings as Ray Wright, Cuthbertson and Freitas led off the fifth with three consecutive base knocks. Cuthbertson and Wright later scored in the inning with the Thunderbirds enjoying runs in the sixth off a solo home run by Garrett Messerly, a two-run big fly by Freitas and a pair of RBI doubles by Wright and Cuthbertson.
Western Illinois chipped into the 16-6 lead with three runs in the top of the seventh, but a Zablan RBI double and a Colby Ford RBI single in the bottom of the inning put the lead back up to 18-9. The Leathernecks scored three more runs in the top of the eighth off the arm of reliever Braden Yardley, but freshman Kelsey Outram replaced Yardley on the mound to record the final four outs of the contest.
SUU starter Kyle Melling earned the victory after pitching six innings, allowing seven runs (all earned) on 12 hits with one walk and four strikeouts. WIU's Brock Simon was given the loss in relief after 1.1 innings, allowing five runs (all earned) on four hits and two walks.
In game two, runs were matched in the second and fifth innings as both teams put up two runs on the board in each frame. SUU runs in the second came off the bat of Sanford on his second home run of the afternoon and an RBI single by Justin Neuhart. Runs in the fifth came off another home run by Freitas and an RBI single by Wilson.
Cuthbertson's RBI single in the sixth broke the 4-4 deadlock, but Freitas' three-run bomb over the centerfield fence gave the Thunderbirds some breathing room in the eventual 8-4 victory for the Thunderbirds.
SUU starter Alec Reichle pitched the complete game, allowing four runs (all earned) on 12 hits with one walk and three strikeouts. WIU ace Eric Eden endured the loss after 5.2 innings, allowing eight runs (all earned) on 13 hits with one walk and nine strikeouts.
Southern Utah has now scored 48 runs in its last three games and has compiled a winning streak of seven straight. Most of the damage over the past three games has come in the sixth inning as the T-Birds have mustered 19 runs in that frame.
The two teams will meet for the final game of the series tomorrow afternoon at Thunderbird Park with the first pitch scheduled for Noon.