Lions baseball launches season with series win versus SIUE


David Zieske

The Lions’ first season ball is hit as designated hitter Evan Keller taps towards left field.

Alumni Field hosted a home-opening matchup between the SLU Lions and Southern Illinois University Edwardsville Cougars, defeating the Cougars 1-0 and 4-3 in the first two games, then losing the third 10-3. 

Will Kinzeler pitched the majority of the shutout of the Cougars, which solidified the defensive efforts during game one on Feb. 18. 

Kinzeler played for six innings while only allowing two hits, four strikeouts and zero runs during his time on the mound. Pitcher Gage Trahan had three strikeouts in two innings, and pitcher Trey Harrington held down the fort for a scoreless inning, further assisting Kinzeler with pitching in the late game. 

“Go win. Simple as that,” said Kinzeler, summing up the tone the Lions set during this season opener. 

Kinzeler commented on his relieving pitchers, saying, “Those guys are extremely good. The amount of trust, when I come out of the game, and I know I have Gage and Trip (Trey) coming in behind me to close it out.” 

Kinzeler expressed significant comfort in his team, knowing he had a defense that continued the pressure after exiting the mound. TJ Salvaggio recorded five assists, second-baseman Rhett Rosevear with four assists and Shea Thomas with the final out of the game with three assists. 

The infield led the team with putouts with 24 out of the 27, this number including the quick-handed catcher Bryce Grizzaffi. 

“They just got to relax a little more in those situations,” said Head Coach Matt Riser. “They get so antsy I get it. It is opening day, emotions are high. We just have to continue to take that approach, hey man, regardless of where the runners are or what’s going on, stay in your plan, stay on your approach, and we will have a lot of success.”

Riser said he knew this opening game would be stressful for the players, especially when anticipating that next big play on a season home-opener. However, according to Riser,  he was happy with the overall performance on offense regardless of the nine innings final score. 

The team was led at-bat by designated hitter Evan Keller with one run and two hits, assisted by Grizzaffi with two hits and an RBI (runs batted in). Lions’ Thomas, with two hits, first-baseman Preston Faulkner with one hit and center fielder Tyler Finke with one hit, continued to put pressure on the Cougars while on home plate, which helped solidify a win in the first game 1-0. 

The Lions moved to game two, where both teams started to get acclimated after the off-season. Both scored multiple times in this back and forth match with a ninth inning run to seal the win for SLU. 

Leading at-bat, Faulkner had three hits and an RBI, Keller had one hit and two RBIs and Finke with two runs. In addition, players Salvaggio, left-fielder Triston Welch, and pinch-hitter Champ Artigues got a hit on Saturday, Feb. 19. 

Pitcher Hayden Robb started game two, pitching for five innings and only allowing two hits for his time on the mound. Andrew Landry finished pitching the game for the last 2.1 innings, retiring all seven batters faced, allowing zero runs for the Cougars. 

 This collaborative effort from the Lions ultimately led to a 4-3 victory, out-dueling the Cougars for a second time. 

The third and final series game was lost to SIUE 3-10. However, the third game showed where improvements needed to be made for the Lions. 

At-bat, Welch led with two hits, an RBI and a solo home run, assisted by Grizzaffi (one hit), Rosevear (one hit), right-fielder Christian Garcia (one hit and one run) and pinch-hitter Jake Johnson (one run). 

“We just need to get better as a whole. We need to start doing our thing, string ABs together and start producing with runners in scoring position,” said Welch. 

He emphasized that the team as a whole had to loosen up and really play like the off-season trained the players to finish out these series with a sweep that the Lions aim towards in every matchup. 

Riser said, “You feel like it’s a good weekend because we won a series. In reality, it should be a sweep, and we weren’t ready. Offense really pressed, swung a lot of balls outside the zone and some really good counts for us to hit, and we didn’t take advantage of some opportunities early.”

Southeastern’s Lions look to face University of Lafayette Ragin’ Cajuns at Lafayette Tuesday, Feb 22. Then proceed to a three game, home series versus University of Alabama Birmingham Friday Feb. 25-27 at Alumni Field.