Dawgs walk off Wichita to even series

By Thomas Donley, @TDonleyDE

SIU’s baseball team needed extra innings to beat Wichita State on Saturday.

The hero was a player who entered the game in the eighth inning as a pinch runner and defensive replacement.

Outfielder Ryan Smith’s three-run walk-off home run in the 10th inning gave the Salukis (24-18-1, 5-6 Missouri Valley Conference) a 8-5 win to even the series.

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“I was just looking to put a good swing on it, get a base hit,” said the junior who pinch ran for junior right fielder Jake Hand in the bottom of the eighth. “Just looking for a good pitch to hit.”

The Brentwood, Calif., native got a fastball over the plate and did what coach Ken Henderson said he didn’t want Smith to do — hit the ball in the air. However, the ball traveled far enough to clear the fence in left center field.

Henderson was absent from the ruckus following the Salukis’ first walk-off home run in 10 years after being ejected in the fitfth inning for arguing balls and strikes.

“I don’t really feel like a part of this,” he said after returning to the field. “That was excruciating.”

Henderson watched the YouTube feed of the game from his office in the clubhouse, but the stream was two pitches behind the live action. Hearing screams from the fans at Itchy Jones Stadium prompted him to peer through the window for the final few innings.

The Salukis jumped out to a 5-1 lead after two innings, opening the scoring with a two-run double by sophomore first baseman Logan Blackfan in the first that snapped an 18-inning scoreless streak for the Dawgs’ offense.

The Shockers (16-26, 6-5 MVC) chipped away at the lead with solo home runs from freshman designated hitter Alec Bohm and freshman left fielder Luke Ritter in the second and third innings. 

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Wichita scored single runs in the eighth and ninth inning to force extras, resulting in the first blown save of the season for sophomore closer Ryan Netemeyer, who came on with two on and nobody out in the eighth.

“I’m sure if we would’ve lost, [Netemeyer] would’ve felt bad, but he shouldn’t,” Henderson said. “In my mind, he’s the best closer around.” 

Ritter’s bases-loaded infield single drove in the tying run, but sophomore second baseman Connor Kopach’s diving effort kept the ball on the infield to prevent more runs from scoring. Smith capped the top of the ninth with a diving catch on a sinking line drive that would have driven in the go-ahead run.

Junior setup man Jacob Williams (1-2, 2.21 ERA) earned the win with a perfect 10th inning.

Senior righthander John Hayes (0-4, 9.69 ERA) took the loss for Wichita State after coming on in relief of freshman righty Codi Heuer.

Heuer pitched six innings of three-hit, shutout relief after junior starter Zach Lewis allowed five runs in an inning-plus of work.

Junior left-hander Joey Marciano gave the Salukis five innings of three-run ball in his second Saturday start of the season.

Ritter’s three hits were a game high. Kopach and junior center fielder Dyllin Mucha led SIU with two hits each.

The series concludes at 1 p.m. Sunday at Itchy Jones Stadium. Sophomore right-hander Michael Baird (6-3, 1.73 ERA) will pitch the rubber match for SIU. Freshman righty Clayton McGinness (1-1, 7.39 ERA) will take the bump for the Shockers.

Thomas Donley can be reached at [email protected] or at 618-536-3307

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