SIU baseball takes two of three from Braves

By Gus Bode

It was not always easy, but the Saluki baseball team found a way to put the cellar-dwellers away.

SIU (20-25, 8-9 in Missouri Valley Conference) took two of three from last-place Bradley (15-27, 2-13 MVC) this weekend at O’Brien Field in Peoria. The two wins put the Salukis one win from being .500 in the conference for the first time since March 28th.

Associate head coach Ken Henderson said he likes what he has seen out of the team since the second half of conference started.


‘It goes back to some really good weekday games we had,’ Henderson said. ‘It really helped our confidence and we’re just a different ballclub now. We’re just playing better baseball.’

Friday night’s game went down to the wire as Saluki starter, senior right-hander Adam Curynski and Bradley’s right-hander Rob Scahill combined for 17 shutout innings. But while Scahill pitched a complete game, senior reliever David Kington replaced Curynski in the bottom of the ninth for SIU.

Two batters later, it was over.

Bradley centerfielder Nick Mitidiero took the first pitch off Kington deep for the walk-off 1-0 win for Bradley. The win was only Bradley’s second conference victory this season and snapped SIU’s three-game conference win streak.

The pitching duel continued on Saturday, as SIU’s junior left-hander Jimmy Cornell allowed only one run and four hits in seven innings. His counterpart, Joe Bircher, was equally impressive, allowing just two earned runs and five hits in eight innings.

But with SIU up 2-1 in the eighth inning, Bradley mounted a comeback and was able to scratch a run off Kington.

The Saluki reliever, who replaced Cornell after his strong outing, gave up a leadoff triple to shortstop Tommy Fitzgerald, who scored on a sacrifice fly to tie the game at two apiece.


But the game went into extra innings, a place the Salukis are all too familiar with.

Junior Tyler Bullock knocked in junior right fielder Aaron Roberts, who extended his 12 game-hitting streak earlier in the game, to give the Salukis a 3-2 lead. Senior second baseman Scott Elmendorf knocked in pinch runner Chase Sanford later in the inning to give the Salukis a 4-2.

Saluki closer Bryant George retired the side in order in the eleventh to improve his record to 3-0 on the year after allowing two hits and a walk in 3.2 scoreless innings.

SIU is now 4-0 in extra-inning games this season. The Salukis have outscored opponents 13-0 in the extra frames.

‘ While Friday and Saturday were pitching clinics, Sunday was more of a hitting clinic put on by the Salukis.

The Salukis pounded Braves starter Justin Ziegler early and often, as they scored five runs, two earned, in his only inning of work as the Salukis won decisively on Sunday 11-1 in eight innings.

Senior right-hander Andrew Dunn continued his recent dominance on the mound, allowing only one run and four hits in eight innings. The senior has only allowed one run and 10 hits in his last 15 innings of work. Henderson said the senior has been pounding the strike zone, which is the key to his success.

Although Roberts’ 12-game hitting streak was snapped on Sunday, he said all that matters was that the team won.

‘I’ll gladly sacrifice a hitting streak – as I’m sure anybody else would on this team – to come out of (Peoria) with a series win,’ Roberts said.