Six-run sixth inning dooms Salukis

The strong winds of Abe Martin Field helped Middle Tennessee State score 14 runs in its 14-5 victory Tuesday against the Salukis.

“We didn’t play poorly, we just didn’t pitch well enough to win,” said coach Ken Henderson. “And we’re not going to win if we keep pitching like that.”

Freshman pitcher Sam Coonrod makes his college debut as a starter Tuesday against Middle Tennessee State University at Abe Martin Field. Coonrod pitched four innings, gave up five runs and struck out three batters. The Salukis lost 14-5 to the Blue Raiders. The Salukis host the Blue Raiders again today at 2 p.m. Chris Zoeller | Daily Egyptian

Saluki sophomore right-handed pitcher Matt Murphy entered the top of the sixth after retiring the first three batters he faced in the fifth. But six singles and a hit batter helped Middle Tennessee State (8-4) plate six runs in the top of the sixth, all of them earned and credited to Murphy (1-2), who took the loss.

“It was a close ball game, so I had to throw strikes, and I did in that first inning,” Murphy said. “They just put some nice swings on the ball, and I wasn’t locating (pitches) well.”

Henderson used five pitchers, which he said taxed the bullpen that’s already without junior left-handed pitcher Brad Drust and sophomore right-handed pitcher Lee Weld because of injuries.

“We don’t have a lot of depth going in, and we knew that two straight games was going to put pressure on our bullpen,” Henderson said. “You hope that guys can give you two, three or four innings, and they didn’t do that.”

Saluki freshman right-handed pitcher Sam Coonrod started his first game as a Saluki and pitched four innings, giving up four runs, three of them earned, on five hits. The big blow Coonrod gave up was a three-run home run to Blue Raider junior second-baseman Johnny Thomas in the top of the fourth.

“I threw one up, and he just hit it out on me,” Coonrod said. “I think it got in the wind a little bit, but still, it was a home run.”

Henderson said Drust was originally slated as the mid-week starting pitcher, but Tommy John surgery on his arm three weeks ago put an end to his season. Henderson said Coonrod pitched well enough out of the bullpen to earn the start.

Head coach Ken Henderson, right, talks with junior infielder/outfielder Austin Montgomery about a fly ball he dropped in the third inning during Tuesday’s home opener against Middle Tennessee State University at Abe Martin Field. The Salukis lost the game 14-5. Nathan Hoefert | Daily Egyptian

“He threw four good innings for us. He’s a guy that’s been out of the bullpen; he’s been tremendous for us,” Henderson said. “He’s just not ready to go any longer than that, so we got to get him out of there, and the rest of the guys just can’t pitch (around) the belt.”

Blue Raider junior left-handed pitcher Jordan Cooper started for Middle Tennessee State and went four innings, giving up four runs, three earned, on seven hits. Sophomore right-handed pitcher Paul Mittura came in to relieve Cooper after he gave up two runs in the bottom of the fifth, and Mittura (2-0) picked up the victory after pitching two hitless innings.

“They have good pitching, and that was the difference in the ball game,” Henderson said. “Our hitters, after a while, you get demoralized. You get back in the game, then you give up six runs, and then the three spot (in the eighth inning).”

Middle Tennessee State stole eight bases Tuesday, which Henderson said was strange given that junior catcher Luke Mottashed caught three of the five runners who have tried stealing a base on him before Tuesday’s game.

SIU and Middle Tennessee State go at it again Wednesday at 2 p.m. at Abe Martin Field. Henderson said he expects to start sophomore right-handed pitcher Peter Slavonic, which will be the first start for Slavonic after making three appearances out of the bullpen this season.

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