Salukis ready for final test

By Jack Robinson

The SIU men’s baseball team plays six of its last seven games against Missouri Valley Conference competition and the season’s final stretch could be what the team needs to have a successful postseason.

The Salukis have been stricken with close games this season and this weekend was no exception. SIU left 29 runners on base in three games and scored only 21 runs against a struggling Purdue University team that has a record of only 13-27.

If the Salukis want to make a deep run in the playoffs, they have to figure out a way to get more run production from the whole lineup. Even though SIU has struggled with runners in scoring position, the team’s hitting has seen improvement all season.

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Senior outfielder Austin Montgomery is hitting a .365 batting average, scored 28 runs, 44 RBIs and hit seven home runs this season. Montgomery has provided a solid offensive foundation and has been clutch in many games. In SIU’s May 1 game against Belmont University, Montgomery, with two runners on base, hit the game-winning single to score junior infielder Jake Welch. Against the University of Illinois April 30, Montgomery had three hits, including a two-run home run to post four RBIs.

In the playoffs, close games can either make or break teams and the Salukis have lost 18 games by three runs or less this season. The Salukis have to improve their late-game play if they expect to advance past the first round in the MVC tournament.

The Salukis have shown glimpses of greatness this season; however, the team has encountered consistency issues. The pitching staff has thrown numerous games where players gave up few runs but the team’s common problem has been run support. Senior pitcher Cody Forsythe knows this all too well, as he has started 12 games this season, yet has only two wins. Even though his record is unimpressive, Forsythe has stuck out 48 batters and has only allowed 27 earned runs in 77 innings pitched this season.

Along with Forsythe, junior relief pitcher Todd Eaton also has an outstanding pitching record this season. Eaton has allowed only seven earned runs, struck out 24 batters and has seven saves in 21 appearances. Eaton has come in late games and sealed team’s fates decisively.

SIU’s one consistent aspect this season has been the dominance of the mid-inning relief pitchers. SIU junior pitcher Aaron Snyder has a record of 3-4 this season, posted an ERA of 2.60 and struck out 21 batters in 34 innings. The season’s best pitcher is junior left hander Tyler Dray. Dray has an impressive ERA of only 0.84 and has struck out 18 batters and allowed only two earned runs in 21 innings pitched. The key to the postseason is usually in the pitchers’ hands; if SIU can continue to get solid performances out of its pitching staff the Salukis could match up well against their MVC opponents.

If the Salukis can come away with four or five wins out of this seven-game stretch, it will set the team up for a successful postseason. However, the problem is the Salukis have only won three out of 12 MVC games this season. On May 10, the Salukis play a three-game series against Bradley in Peoria, Ill., then will travel to play Saint Louis University on Tuesday. To conclude the season, the Salukis host Illinois State University at Abe Martin Field in Carbondale for the team’s last home series starting May 16.

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