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Salukis fight back after late rally by Western Illinois, claim 8-6 win in home-opener

Senior+pitcher+Chad+Whitmer+throws+the+ball+toward+a+Western+Illinois+batter+during+the+Salukis%E2%80%99+8-6+win+against+the+Leathernecks+on+Friday%2C+March+3%2C+2017%2C+at+Itchy+Jones+Stadium.+%28Jacob+Wiegand+%7C+%40jawiegandphoto%29%0A
Senior pitcher Chad Whitmer throws the ball toward a Western Illinois batter during the Salukis’ 8-6 win against the Leathernecks on Friday, March 3, 2017, at Itchy Jones Stadium. (Jacob Wiegand | @jawiegandphoto)

Senior pitcher Chad Whitmer throws the ball toward a Western Illinois batter during the Salukis’ 8-6 win against the Leathernecks on Friday, March 3, 2017, at Itchy Jones Stadium. (Jacob Wiegand | @jawiegandphoto)

Senior pitcher Chad Whitmer throws the ball toward a Western Illinois batter during the Salukis’ 8-6 win against the Leathernecks on Friday, March 3, 2017, at Itchy Jones Stadium. (Jacob Wiegand | @jawiegandphoto)

By Denton "Gio" Giovenco

SIU played an up-and-down affair against Western Illinois Friday at Itchy Jones Stadium that ended in an 8-6 Saluki win.

SIU (5-4) senior starting pitcher Chad Whitmer — who came into Friday’s game with a 1-0 record to go along with a 1.50 ERA and team-leading 11 strikeouts — toed the rubber for the Salukis.

Whitmer tossed a solid game for the Salukis, limiting Western Illinois to three runs (two earned) on seven hits while walking three and striking out six through 6 ⅓ innings.

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Whitmer was in line for the win, supported by five early runs by the Saluki offense, before Western Illinois tacked up three runs in the top of the eighth inning to take the lead 6-5.

SIU answered back in the bottom half of the eighth inning with an RBI single by junior left fielder Greg Lambert, along with an RBI hit by pitch to junior catcher Nick Hutchins and an RBI walk to junior first baseman Logan Blackfan to retake the lead 8-6.

Western Illinois senior pitcher Nate Westfahl throws the ball during the Salukis’ 8-6 win against the Leathernecks on Friday, March 3, 2017, at Itchy Jones Stadium. (Jacob Wiegand | @jawiegandphoto)

Junior pitcher Ryan Netemeyer shut down Western Illinois in the top of the ninth inning, pitching a 1-2-3 inning with 2 strikeouts to earn his second save of the season.

Salukis Lambert and junior DH Hunter Anderson both went 3 for 5 with one run scored and one RBI on the day.

Blackfan also put up a great day at the plate against Western Illinois, going 1 for 2 with one run scored, two RBIs and three walks.

This is a promising sign for Blackfan, who managed a .250 BA with six walks and four RBIs to go along with eleven strikeouts in seven games while manning the cleanup spot so far this season.

Western Illinois senior infielder Conner Currier places his hand on second as Saluki junior infielder Connor Kopach and senior infielder Will Farmer (15) attempt to get an out during SIU’s 8-6 win against the Leathernecks on Friday, March 3, 2017, at Itchy Jones Stadium. Currier had two runs during the game. (Jacob Wiegand | @jawiegandphoto)

Since being moved to the five-spot in the lineup, Blackfan has a .500 BA to go along with three walks and four RBIs with zero strikeouts.

Saluki ace starting pitcher junior Michael Baird will take the mound for the Salukis in game two of the home-opener series against Western Illinois at 2 p.m. Saturday. The series finale game begins at 1 p.m. Sunday, with senior starting pitcher Joey Marciano making his return to the mound for SIU.

Sports writer Denton “Gio” Giovenco can be reached at dgiovenco@dailyegyptian.com or on Twitter @DentonGiovenco.

To stay up to date with all your SIU sports news, follow the Daily Egyptian on Facebook and Twitter.

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