After he missed two sacrifice bunts in his at-bat in the bottom of the ninth, sophomore second baseman Jake Welch said he was just happy to make contact when he lined a walk-off double into left-center field Saturday.
“I knew coach (Ken Henderson) wasn’t very happy with me,” Welch said. “The guy on first was stealing, and (Creighton senior right-hander Kurt Spomer) left me a fastball up, and I was fortunate to put the barrel on it.”
Junior outfielder Rennie Troggio led off the bottom of the ninth in the second game of Saturday’s double-header against Creighton (15-20, 2-10 Missouri Valley Conference) with a single off Spomer, who had been just put into the game
by the Bluejays. Troggio was sent on a straight steal attempt by Henderson on a full count pitch to Welch, who hit the game-winning double for SIU (22-18, 8-4 MVC) in its 7-6 win in the second game of Saturday’s double-header.
Henderson said he sent Troggio on the full-count pitch because he had faith in Troggio’s speed and Welch’s ability to make contact. Even though Henderson said he likes to keep the bunt sign on with two strikes, he let Welch swing because Troggio was going to end up at second base anyways with the steal attempt.
“By the time we scored, I forgot I even gave (Welch) the bunt sign,” Henderson said. “I don’t want to diminish the fact that we need to get our bunts down and execute … but if it works out, you kind of forget it happens.”
The victory Saturday was the second of the day for SIU, and Sunday the Salukis finished a sweep of Creighton with a 6-5 victory.
The sweep puts SIU in third place in the MVC standings, a half-game behind first-place Missouri State.
“We try and take it weekend by weekend,” senior catcher Brian Bajer said. “We try not to look too much at the standings. We know we’ve got to go out and win every weekend series that we can. Coming home with the sweep is a lot sweeter than going home with two wins.”
SIU’s first game against Creighton was postponed because of rain Friday and rescheduled for noon Saturday, and the Salukis won 4-0. Saluki junior left-hander Cody Forsythe (3-1, 3.36 ERA) pitched a complete-game shutout. He gave up five hits, two walks and struck out five.
“(Our starting pitchers) kept us in games and gave us a chance. That’s what you ask them to do,” Henderson said. “Our offense is good enough that we can find a way to score runs.”
Bajer hit his second home run of the year, a solo shot in the bottom of the seventh off Creighton left-handed junior Ty Blach (3-4, 2.90 ERA). Blach took the loss as he gave up four runs, three earned off four hits in seven and a third innings.
SIU completed the series sweep in a back-and-forth contest Sunday. After SIU took a 3-2 lead in the fifth inning, Troggio came up with the bases loaded and two outs and hit a high bouncer over the third baseman’s head that scored two runs and gave SIU a 5-2 lead.
Henderson said Troggio’s double shouldn’t have happened, given that Creighton senior right-hander Brandon Koenigstein walked SIU’s last batter and threw five straight balls, but it was another one of those plays that is forgotten when it works out.
Freshman right-hander Sam Coonrod (2-2, 3.98 ERA) recorded the win Sunday. He gave up two earned runs on four hits in five innings. Creighton senior right-hander Shane Liska (1-2, 3.62) took the loss while Saluki sophomore right-hander Todd Eaton (1-0, 3.63 ERA) picked up his seventh save of the season.
SIU plays Missouri State on the road next weekend after a 3 p.m. Tuesday game against SEMO at Abe Martin Field. Henderson said junior left-hander Nathan Dorris (5-3, 5.15 ERA) will likely be the starting pitcher.