SLU concludes regular season on six-game winning streak with sweep of NSU; Head Coach Matt Riser let go after 10 years of service


Chase Gispert

Powerade bottles fly as Southeastern walks off Northwestern State 7-6 on Senior Day at Alumni Field to end the 2023 regular season at 25-25. (May 20, 2023 – Pat Kenelly Diamond at Alumni Field – Hammond)

Southeastern baseball defeated Northwestern State in walk-off fashion Saturday on Senior Day 7-6 at Alumni Field to conclude the regular season with a six-game winning streak and a sweep of its conference rivals. 

Former Friday starter and redshirt sophomore pitcher Brennan Stuprich had arguably his best outing of the year since pitching six shutout innings vs. Lafayette in the Lions’ season opener over three months ago. 

The Brother Martin product allowed one run on four hits in six innings of work while tossing five strikeouts. 

SLU jumped out to an early 1-0 lead in the second inning through senior third baseman Shea Thomas’s RBI single as graduate catcher Connor Manola came around to score.

Manola led off the inning with a double down the left field line and was advanced to third via fellow graduate, first baseman Champ Artigues’ line out to right field. 

Junior designated hitter Jake Killingsworth led off the bottom of the fourth with a single to center. Manola K’d before Artigues walked on five pitches to put runners on first and second. 

Thomas flew out to center field bringing up sophomore shortstop TJ Salvaggio. 

The Slidell native cranked a double in the left-center gap bringing home Killingsworth and Artigues to make it 3-0 SLU. Salvaggio advanced to third on the throw home and then scored himself on a wild pitch as the Lions roared to a four-run advantage. 

The score would remain through five before NSU finally put their first run across the board in the top of the sixth inning with an RBI single off the bat of junior shortstop Jake Haze. 

Southeastern answered in the bottom half of the frame as Artigues’ lead-off single resulted in a run after junior second baseman Rhett Rosevear’s bases loaded walk later in the inning. 

After six, Green and Gold led Purple and White 5-1. 

Sophomore center fielder Reese Lipoma’s RBI single in the top of the seventh made the score 5-2. 

Following a scoreless half inning for the Lions, the Demons erupted in the eighth to the tune of four runs to take a 6-5 edge seemingly out of nowhere. 

Two singles and a walk loaded the bases for NSU with zero outs spelling trouble for the Lions. 

Two more singles, another walk and a sac fly all resulted in a run each to give Northwestern State its first lead of the game. 

Five of the Demon’s six runs came in the two innings following Stuprich’s departure from the mound as the SLU bullpen struggled to keep the opposition at bay. 

Southeastern went scoreless in the bottom of the eighth while NSU did the same in the top of the last to set up a dramatic finish to the Lions’ regular-season finale. 

Killingsworth notched his second hit of the ball game with a double down the third base line to start off the bottom half of the inning with a bang. 

Following Manola’s flyout to right field, Artigues smashed junior pitcher Kyle Froehlich’s offering off the mound to put runners on the corners with one out. 

Thomas stepped up to the plate and smacked an opposite-field single to right, scoring pinch runner Joe Delaney from third. 

With men on first and second, Salvaggio entered the batter’s box with a chance to win the game. 

The Northshore High alumnus did just that, lining a single to left field as speedy pinch runner Clay Cook slid into home head first just ahead of the throw to give Southeastern a thrilling 7-6 walk-off victory to conclude its 2022-23 season. 

Players mobbed Salvaggio after his heroics. 

“I wasn’t trying to do too much. I fought back from down in the count and put it through the six hole,” said the sophomore shortstop. 

Salvaggio was down 0-2, fouled off a couple pitches and got to 1-2 before ultimately winning the game for SLU. 

The Lions ended the season on a high note, winning its last six contests to finish with a .500 record of 25-25 (9-14 SLC) including game one and game two victories over NSU 6-5 and 7-5.

“I’m going to miss being around the guys the most. Playing ball with your best buds is one of the greatest things you can do in the world… I think for next year we’ve got some young guys that have got some experience now and they see what it takes to win. You can’t play tight. That latter part of the season we played loose and the six game winning streak speaks for itself,” said fifth year senior center fielder Tyler Finke on what he’ll miss most about being a Lion and the baseball team’s outlook for 2024. 

Finke leaves the program as Southeastern’s all-time stolen base leader with 88 during his SLU career to pair with 170 hits, 134 runs and 108 RBIs. 

“If anybody questioned whether they packed it in, I think they answered that question loud and clear. Great group of seniors. I’m proud of them. Obviously not the season we wanted by any means, but they never checked out. We saw that with the six game winning streak,” said Head Coach Matt Riser. 

“We’ve just got to figure some things out. Injuries in the middle of the year and unfortunately didn’t get things clicking the way we wanted to until the end,” concluded the skipper. 

Riser will not get the opportunity to make amends for the Lions’ disappointing season after Southeastern Athletic Director Jay Artigues announced today that he was relieved of his duties after a decade in Hammond. 

Riser ends his career at Southeastern with an overall record of 320-224 (.588%) and a conference mark of 171-98 (.636%). His 320 wins only trail Southeastern Hall of Famer Greg Marten who won 348 games during his tenure as head coach from 1991-2002.

The Lions have made four NCAA Regional appearances (2014, 2016, 2017, 2022) under Riser’s tutelage as well as two SLC Tournament titles (2014, 2022) and one regular season conference championship in 2015 when he was also named Southland Conference Coach of the Year. 

SLU failed to qualify for the SLC Tournament for the first time since 2007 this season with a second-to-last finish (eighth place) of 9-14. 

Ironically, this year’s squad (25-25) finished with a better winning percentage than last year’s SLC Tournament winning side, who concluded the season 30-31. Granted, losing to College World Series participant Auburn and PAC 12 opponent UCLA put the team below .500 after its astounding run to glory in the conference tournament.  

For more news on the baseball program and its new head coaching search, stay tuned to The Lion’s Roar.