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Salukis struggle on the mound in loss to Murray State

Junior+pitcher+Allen+Montgomery+throws+from+the+mound+during+the+first+inning+of+SIU%27s+13-10+loss+to+Murray+State+on+Wednesday%2C+March+22%2C+2017%2C+at+Itchy+Jones+Stadium.+%28Branda+Mitchell+%7C+%40branda_mitchell%29
Junior pitcher Allen Montgomery throws from the mound during the first inning of SIU's 13-10 loss to Murray State on Wednesday, March 22, 2017, at Itchy Jones Stadium. (Branda Mitchell | @branda_mitchell)

Junior pitcher Allen Montgomery throws from the mound during the first inning of SIU's 13-10 loss to Murray State on Wednesday, March 22, 2017, at Itchy Jones Stadium. (Branda Mitchell | @branda_mitchell)

Junior pitcher Allen Montgomery throws from the mound during the first inning of SIU's 13-10 loss to Murray State on Wednesday, March 22, 2017, at Itchy Jones Stadium. (Branda Mitchell | @branda_mitchell)

By Denton "Gio" Giovenco

SIU’s baseball team fell to Murray State 13-10 Wednesday despite another big night at the plate.

The Salukis (11-10) came into Wednesday’s game with momentum from two wins in their last two games. Those two wins came against the University of Illinois last weekend, where the Salukis played four games in three days.

With a number of pitchers on the Salukis’ roster resting after the long weekend, coach Ken Henderson sent junior pitcher Allen Montgomery to the mound for a spot-start Wednesday.

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This was Montgomery’s third start of the season, with his last start coming against Belmont on Feb. 28 where he struggled through 1.2 innings, allowing four runs (all earned) on three hits and four walks.

Montgomery sailed through the first two innings before running into trouble in the top of the third inning where Murray State (11-8) collected six runs on one walk and five hits — one of which was a grand slam — forcing an end to Montgomery’s night.

Henderson went to the bullpen after the third inning to finish the game Wednesday, but the Salukis weren’t able to slow down Murray State.

Infielders Ryan Sabo, Will Farmer, Connor Kopach and Logan Blackfan watch freshman pitcher Brad Harrison and junior catcher Nick Hutchins practice between innings Wednesday, March 22, 2017, at Itchy Jones Stadium. The Murray State Racers beat the Salukis 13-10. (Branda Mitchell | @branda_mitchell)

Five Saluki pitchers combined out of the bullpen to allow seven runs (all earned) on 11 hits, six walks, one hit batsmen and one wild pitch.

“It all comes down to pitching, and we just didn’t pitch well tonight,” Henderson said. “If we’re gonna become a better ball club and do what we think we’re capable of doing, then we gotta have some bullpen guys step up.”

A bright spot on the mound was the return of sophomore pitcher Mitch Townsend to the Saluki bullpen after three weeks off recovering from arm tenderness.

Senior infielder Ryan Sabo attempts to bunt the ball Wednesday, March 22, 2017, during Murray State’s 13-10 victory against SIU at Itchy Jones Stadium. (Branda Mitchell | @branda_mitchell)

Townsend came into Wednesday’s game in the top of the ninth inning and shut down Murray State’s bats, allowing zero runs on only one hit and striking out one while throwing 11 of his 13 pitches for strikes.

“The one exciting thing about tonight [on the mound] was Townsend’s first appearance in three weeks,” Henderson said. “I thought he was really good … he’s a guy that when he’s healthy he can certainly be a key guy for us in the bullpen.”

The Salukis once again put their skill and power on display at the plate Wednesday.

SIU scored runs in five different innings, finishing the night with a new season-high 17 hits.

Senior pitcher Anthony Shimkus tosses a ball in the dugout Wednesday, March 22, 2017, during SIU’s 13-10 loss to Murray State at Itchy Jones Stadium. (Branda Mitchell | @branda_mitchell)

Every Southern player in the starting lineup recorded at least one hit, with five Salukis claiming multi-hit efforts Wednesday.

Junior first baseman Logan Blackfan, senior designated hitter Jake Hand and senior center fielder Dyllin Mucha all went 3-for-5 against Murray State. Mucha also drove in three runs for the Salukis.

Junior second baseman Connor Kopach and senior shortstop Will Farmer both went 2-for-6, each with a double and two RBI’s.

Junior catcher Nick Hutchins dives in an attempt to catch a ball Wednesday, March 22, 2017, at Itchy Jones Stadium during Murray State’s 13-10 victory against the Salukis. (Branda Mitchell | @branda_mitchell)

Farmer also tied junior left fielder Greg Lambert for a team-high three home runs on the season with a blast over the left field wall in the bottom of the eighth inning.

“Number one positive is I saw a lot better swings tonight,” Henderson said. “I thought our plate discipline, our swings and our approaches at the plate were better tonight than they have been all year.”

SIU looks to keep its bats hot when hosting Jacksonville State this weekend for a three-game series. Senior starting pitcher Chad Whitmer will take the mound in the first game of the series, scheduled for a 1 p.m. start Friday.

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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