Salukis use late offensive surge to win home opener

By Gus Bode

The SIU baseball team strung together a fundamental final three innings to stave off a ninth-inning comeback by Tennesee-Martin as the Salukis won their home opener 5-4 Tuesday.

Skyhawks starting pitcher Coty Green cruised through five innings allowing one hit on the minimum amount of batters. But a two-hit, two-run rally by SIU in the top of the sixth sparked a six-run effort for the Salukis in the final three innings.

Freshman designated hitter Chris Serritella and junior catcher Tyler Bullock both reached base to open the sixth frame. After both runners advanced on a sacrifice bunt, sophomore center fielder Chris Murphy knocked in the Salukis’ first run with a single to left field.

Advertisement

Senior second baseman Scott Elmendorf then brought in SIU’s second run on a sacrifice fly.

Associate head coach Ken Henderson said the inning was a good example of fundamental baseball – something the Salukis had lacked in their recent six-game losing streak.

‘ ‘I credit them because we found a way to win late in the game, and we put some things together that we haven’t done lately,’ he said.

Junior closer Bryant George allowed two runs in the top of the ninth inning as the Salukis nearly coughed up a 5-2 lead.

Bryant allowed two runs on three consecutive singles to open the inning before a 1-5-3 double play with no outs and the bases loaded helped SIU escape the inning.

The double play was the Salukis’ third of the game, which proved costly for Tennessee-Martin.

‘They turned three or four double plays, and the game is so fine anyway, anytime something like that happens, it changes the outcome,’ said Skyhawks head coach Bubba Cates.

Advertisement

Bryant entered the game in the eighth inning in relief of senior starting pitcher Andrew Dunn. With two runners on base and two outs, Bryant forced Tennessee-Martin right fielder Miles Hartsfield to pop out to the shortstop to limit the damage to one run.

‘That’s just part of being a closer,’ Bryant said. ‘I just wanted to get (Hartsfield) out and get ready for the ninth inning.’

SIU added one run in the seventh and two more in the eighth. The Salukis finished with seven hits led by a 2-for-4, one RBI performance by junior third baseman Tony Lepore.

Lepore said the Salukis calmed down after the sixth inning and were able to put a dent in the Skyhawks’ pitching.

‘Everyone was trying to do too much at the plate and we kept getting fly balls,’ he said. ‘But once we realized it, we were staying back and hitting line drives.’

Dunn, a John A. Logan College transfer that Henderson said would be relied upon heavily this season, pitched 7.2 innings and allowed two runs on eight hits.

Henderson said Dunn, who didn’t throw a ball until the third batter of the second inning, did a fine job of keeping SIU in the game until the hitters woke up.

‘That’s just what he does,’ Henderson said. ‘He is not going to hurt himself, he’s not going to walk people. He pounds the zone.’

Advertisement