Salukis slammed by Illini

By Gus Bode

It was a game of inches for SIU baseball Tuesday. Unfortunately for them, they came up just a bit short.

The Salukis (18-24) snapped their three-game winning streak Tuesday as they fell 5-1 to in-state rival University of Illinois-Champaign at Illinois Field in Champaign. The loss splits the season series between the teams 1-1.

Associate head coach Ken Henderson said he liked what he saw out of his squad despite the one bad inning.


‘We did a lot good things, we swung extremely well. We just didn’t get any breaks tonight and came up on the short end of the loss tonight,’ Henderson said. ‘We were literally two or three feet away from scoring seven or eight runs.’

In a game full of opportunities, it was the newly nationally ranked No. 28 Fighting Illini (27-12) who took full advantage.

Through the first three and a half innings, both team’s rotations flirted with disaster, but found a way to get out unscathed. Saluki starter Nathan Forer allowed runners to reach scoring position the first two innings, while the Illini reliever Blake Fairchild allowed runners at second and third in the third.

The Illini finally slammed through Forer in the fourth.

Illini shortstop Brandon Wikoff led off the inning with his fifth home run of the year, and Forer could not recover. He immediately loaded he bases with a double, hit batter and walk. It looked as though the damage may be limited after getting right fielder Pete Cappetta to fly out down the right field line to keep the bases loaded.

Unfortunately for Forer, freshman designated hitter Willie Argo was up next.

The Big Ten Player of the Week took Forer deep over the left-field wall for his tenth home run of the season, making it 5-0 Illinois, and ending Forer’s night.


‘That was a little frustrating, really the only negative of the night, unfortunately it was a big one,’ Henderson said about the bottom of the fourth.

The Salukis looked as though they would comeback just as they did last time they played Illinois on April 15, where they overcame a 6-5 deficit to win 9-6. Junior designated hitter Tyler Bullock was a factor both times.

With two outs and the bases loaded in the sixth, Bullock laced a line drive into the left-center gap but left fielder Casey McMurray saved at least two runs with a diving catch to end the inning.

Bullock came up again in the eighth after junior right fielder Aaron Roberts, who extended his hitting streak to 10 games, singled in junior shortstop Michael Stalter to put the Salukis on the board. Bullock smacked Illinois reliever Corey Kimes’ offering deep to right, but heavy winds blowing in stopped the ball at the wall, right into the right fielder’s glove.

The loss is the Salukis’ eighth in their last 10 games against the Illini, although they had won two of the last three. It is the fourth straight victory for Illinois, who on Monday were named the number 28 team in the country by the Collegiate Baseball’s weekly poll. Roberts said the Salukis were expecting to beat the Illini, despite their ranking.

‘We’ve beat them the first time, and we definitely had our chances this game,’ Roberts said. ‘We had opportunities to score all night and we just couldn’t pull them off tonight.’