University of Illinois gets even with Salukis with midweek victory

The Saluki baseball team used five pitchers Wednesday night, all of which gave up at least one earned run. 

SIU (21-24, 3-12) traveled to the University of Illinois (24-17, 10-5) for one game to end the month. The Salukis ended April with a 7-12 record, dropping them below .500 for the first time since Feb. 16.

The Salukis won two of three games at home against Illinois earlier this season, but the Fighting Illini evened the score by winning 10-1.

Coach Ken Henderson used a lineup he has never used before to give some players a day off.

“I’m confident in everyone on my club,” Henderson said. “I don’t know many baseball teams that play just nine guys, even in the big leagues.”

Freshman Austin McPheron made his fifth start of the season and had won his last two starts before Wednesday. McPheron gave up two earned runs in the first inning and a solo home run to junior outfielder Casey Fletcher in the third.

The Salukis got one run back in the fifth on a solo home run from senior designated hitter Cody Daily, but Fletcher hit his second solo home run of the game in the sixth off freshman Chad Whitmer to make the score 4-1 in favor of Illinois.

Senior Derek Fogel started the seventh, but was pulled after walking the first two batters. Senior Matt Murphy entered and gave up two singles to the first two batters he faced. Fletcher then hit his third home run of the game to make the lead 9-1.

“I was just looking for pitches that I could put good swings on,” Fletcher said. “One was wind aided, but I had two I felt I hit pretty good.”

Illinois scored one last time in the eighth on two hits and a walk to put the game out of reach.

Fletcher hit .500 against the Salukis this season with three home runs and seven RBIs.

“We had to come out and win against Southern today,” he said. “If Southern beats us three times, that’s not looking good for our NCAA aspirations.”

Fletcher said the Salukis and the Illini are close competition because they are both Division I schools in Illinois.

“It’s definitely an in-state rivalry,” he said. “I wouldn’t say it’s bad blood like the Yankees and Red Sox, but any time you play in-state there are bragging rights.”

Senior Matt Jones led the Saluki hitters going 2 for 4, extending his hitting streak to seven games.

“I’m trying to be a little more aggressive with fastballs early in the count,” Jones said.

Senior outfielder Donny Duschinsky made his first start in three weeks and had his third hit of the month.

“We had some good swings,” Henderson said. “We just didn’t find a way to score.”

The Salukis have their final home conference series this weekend against the University of Evansville.

Aaron Graff can be contacted at, @Aarongraff_DE or 536-3311 ext. 269

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