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Salukis take 1 of 3 in weekend conference series at Wichita State

Evansville+freshman+infielder+Craig+Shepherd+catches+the+ball+Sunday%2C+April+2%2C+2017%2C+to+get+Saluki+senior+outfielder+Dyllin+Mucha+out+during+SIU%27s+8-3+win+against+the+Purple+Aces+at+Itchy+Jones+Stadium.+%28Luke+Nozicka+%7C+%40lukenozicka%29
Evansville freshman infielder Craig Shepherd catches the ball Sunday, April 2, 2017, to get Saluki senior outfielder Dyllin Mucha out during SIU's 8-3 win against the Purple Aces at Itchy Jones Stadium. (Luke Nozicka | @lukenozicka)

Evansville freshman infielder Craig Shepherd catches the ball Sunday, April 2, 2017, to get Saluki senior outfielder Dyllin Mucha out during SIU's 8-3 win against the Purple Aces at Itchy Jones Stadium. (Luke Nozicka | @lukenozicka)

Evansville freshman infielder Craig Shepherd catches the ball Sunday, April 2, 2017, to get Saluki senior outfielder Dyllin Mucha out during SIU's 8-3 win against the Purple Aces at Itchy Jones Stadium. (Luke Nozicka | @lukenozicka)

By Denton "Gio" Giovenco

The SIU baseball team battled back from a lackluster performance in its game one loss Friday night to tie the series at 1-1 with a win Saturday, but failed to win the series with a seven-inning loss Sunday, falling to 4-2 in conference play.

Game one — 6 p.m. Friday at Wichita State

Saluki senior starting pitcher Chad Whitmer got the nod for game one of the series with Wichita State. He cruised through the first two innings of Friday night’s game before running into trouble in the bottom of the third, surrendering five runs on five hits — one of which was a two-run home run — and one walk to give Wichita State a 5-0 lead.

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Whitmer regained his composure and pitched well in the fourth and fifth innings, keeping Wichita State from adding to its lead.

But Whitmer failed to navigate through the bottom of the sixth unscathed when Wichita State claimed its second two-run home run of the game for a 7-0 lead.

The Saluki starter exited the game after serving up his second long-ball of the game, finishing with 5.2 inningsallowing seven runs on nine hits while walking four and striking out two batters. Whitmer had only allowed one home run all season before Friday night’s match-up with Wichita State.

Junior pitcher Allen Montgomery relieved Whitmer to close out the bottom of the sixth. He remained in the game for the duration Friday night, shutting down Wichita State’s offense through the final 2.1 innings while allowing no runs on only one hit to go along with one walk and one strikeout.

Southern could not get things started at the plate Friday night against Wichita State’s starting pitcher Zach Lewis, managing only three hits against him in his seven innings of work.

Senior right fielder Jake Hand and senior shortstop Will Farmer accounted for all of the Saluki hits Friday night, with Hand going 2-for-4 with a double and Farmer going 1-for-2 with a walk.

The Salukis went hitless in the final two innings Friday night against Wichita State’s reliever Codi Heuer to lose the first game of the series 7-0.

Game two — 2 p.m. Saturday at Wichita State

Junior starting pitcher Michael Baird toed the rubber for the Salukis in Saturday’s game. He proved uncharacteristically shaky to begin the game.

In the bottom of the first, Baird allowed two hits and a walk through the first four batters he faced. He committed his first balk of the season while the bases were loaded, pushing across Wichita State’s first run of the game. Baird retired the next two batters to strand two runners and keep Wichita State’s lead at 1-0.

Wichita State manufactured another run off of Baird in the bottom of the second with two hits to move its lead to 2-0.

Southern cut Wichita State’s lead to one in the top of the fourth when junior first baseman Logan Blackfan worked a two-out walk and later scored on a throwing error by Wichita State’s shortstop.

But Wichita State answered right back in the bottom half of the inning, scoring three runs on a walk and three hits against Baird to grow its lead 5-1.

Baird exited the game following the fourth inning, finishing the game with 4.0 innings, allowing five runs on seven hits and one balk while walking four and striking out three batters.

In relief of Baird, sophomore pitcher Mitch Townsend and senior pitcher Jacob Williams combined over the next 3.0 innings, allowing no runs and scattering two hits while issuing one walk and recording one strikeout.

As the bullpen held Wichita State’s offense at bay, the Salukis battled back by scoring runs in the next five innings of Saturday’s game.

Southern scored three runs in the top of the fifth inning as senior third baseman Ryan Sabo led off the inning with a double to left and scored on senior center fielder Dyllin Mucha’s RBI double to right. Mucha scored on senior right fielder Ryan Smith’s RBI ground out to shortstop and junior second baseman Connor Kopach came home to score on junior left fielder Greg Lambert’s sacrifice fly, moving Southern to within one run of Wichita State 5-4.

SIU tied the game 5-5 in the top of the sixth after junior catcher Nick Hutchins led off the inning with a double and scored on Farmer’s RBI single to right. Southern took the lead 6-5 in the top of the seventh when Smith scored on Blackfan’s RBI single to right.

The Salukis added four more runs in the top of the eighth when Farmer, Mucha, Smith and Kopach all came across to score. They scored their final run of the game in the top of the ninth when Hutchins scored on Sabo’s RBI single to give Southern an 11-5 lead heading into the bottom of the ninth.

Freshman pitcher Alex Gutermuth entered the game in the eighth inning and pitched through a quick bottom half, allowing no hits while walking one and striking out one batter.

Gutermuth ran into trouble to begin the bottom half of the ninth, walking the first batter he faced in four straight pitches. With a fly out sandwiched between two singles, he managed to strike out the fifth batter of the inning for the second out of the inning.

But he walked the next batter, forcing a run across to make it an 11-6 game and was pulled in favor of junior closer Ryan Netemeyer.

Netemeyer walked the first batter he faced, forcing another run across the plate. A wild pitch to the next batter saw Wichita State cut Southern’s lead 11-8 before Netemeyer got the eighth batter of the inning to harmlessly pop out to Blackfan in foul territory to finish off the Saluki win and earn his 10th save of the season.

Four Saluki hitters logged multiple hits in Saturday’s game.

Hutchins went 2-for-4 with a double, one walk and two runs scored. Farmer also went 2-for-4, with one walk, one run scored and one RBI.

Sabo was perfect at the plate, going 3-for-3 with one double, one run scored and one RBI. He also laid down two textbook sacrifice bunts in the game.

Mucha went 3-for-5 as arguably Southern’s most productive hitter Saturday, with two doubles, two runs scored and two RBI’s.

Game three — 1 p.m. Sunday at Wichita State

In the rubber-match game with Wichita State, Southern sent senior starting pitcher Joey Marciano to the bump.

Southern gave Marciano an early 1-0 lead as Kopach scored when Wichita State’s pitcher threw the ball away on a pick-off attempt in an error-laden top of the first inning.

Wichita State took the lead away from Southern 2-1 in the bottom half of the inning when an early walk by Marciano scored on a two-run home run off the bat of third baseman Alec Bohm. This was Bohm’s second two-run home run of the series following his two-run blast off of Whitmer Friday night.

Southern tied the game 2-2 in the top of the second when Hutchins doubled to lead off the inning, advanced to third on Farmer’s ground out and scored on Sabo’s sacrifice fly to center field.

But Wichita State blew the game wide open in the bottom of the third inning.

Marciano forced the first batter of the inning to pop up to record the first out but failed to record another as he surrendered one run on three singles and walked a batter before exiting the game in favor of senior pitcher Austin McPheron.

McPheron struggled heavily Sunday, serving up two singles and a walk to go along with hitting two batters while only recording one out in the bottom of the third inning. He allowed all three inherited runners to score and allowed three runs of his own before being replaced by Montgomery with two outs in the inning.

Montgomery allowed one inherited runner to score before inducing a fly out to left field to end the inning with Wichita State crossing the plate eight times for a 10-2 lead.

Marciano’s final line for Sunday’s start was 2.1 innings allowing six runs on six hits while walking two and striking out three batters.

Southern’s offense did not give up after the big inning for Wichita State, scoring two runs in the top of the fourth as Sabo drove in Hutchins with an RBI double before coming around to score on Mucha’s RBI single to make it a 10-4 game.

Wichita State answered with another big inning in the bottom of the fifth, scoring six runs to move its lead to 16-4.

The Salukis chipped away in the top of the sixth with three more runs to shorten Wichita State’s lead 16-7.

Southern failed to score in the top of the seventh and Wichita State plated its 17th run of the game in the bottom half of the inning to win the game by MVC’s 10-run rule 17-7 and take the series over the Salukis 2-1.

SIU sent seven different pitchers to the mound in Sunday’s game, accounting for 10 total walks and 5 hit batsmen to go along with two wild pitches.

While Southern’s pitching faltered Sunday, its bats stayed lively with seven runs on eight hits through seven innings.

Three Salukis enjoyed a multi-hit game, with Sabo and Mucha both going 2-for-2 and Hutchins 2-for-3 with two doubles.

Series Highlights

Sabo batted .625 (5-for-8) in the series, with two doubles, three runs scored and three RBI’s. He only struck out one time during the series while laying down two sacrifice bunts and recording one sacrifice fly.

Mucha batted .455 (5-for-11) in the series, with two doubles, three runs scored and three RBI’s. He also walked once and did not strike out in the series.

Hutchins batted .400 (4-for-10) in the series, with three doubles, three runs scored, one steal, one walk. He struck out only once in the series. He also threw out the only potential base-stealer in the series, allowing no stolen bases to Wichita State.

Kopach stole two bases during the series to move his season total to 18 steals. He is now tied for fifth overall in steals in Division I NCAA baseball.

Netemeyer recorded his 10th save of the season in the series. He is now tied for fourth overall in saves in Division I NCAA baseball.

SIU turned four double plays in the series against Wichita State. This moves SIU into a tie for 31st overall in double plays per game in Division I NCAA Baseball.

Up Next

SIU (16-17, 4-2 MVC) will host non-conference opponent Southeast Missouri on Tuesday at Itchy Jones Stadium. First pitch is scheduled for 5 p.m. and will be streamed live on ESPN3.

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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