SIU baseball hosts Northern Iowa

By Gus Bode

The SIU baseball team may not be familiar with this season’s Northern Iowa club, which has experienced some roster turnover, but it is not as if the Panthers have established a consistent identity, either.

The Salukis (7-13) will host Northern Iowa for a three-game series, beginning at 3 p.m. today at Abe Martin Field. The Panthers scored a school-record 28 runs in their previous game, but had been shut out in the game before that, and hit only one home run in the game.

Northern Iowa (8-7) has been held scoreless in three games this year, too.

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‘They’re a good team, they play fundamental baseball,’ SIU senior second baseman Scott Elmendorf said in a phone interview. ‘They’re not going to pound the ball, they’re not going to hit home runs like Middle Tennessee does.’

The Panthers are second-to-last in the Missouri Valley Conference with six home runs, but they rank second in stolen bases, 26, and Saluki associate head coach Ken Henderson said in a phone interview that Northern Iowa usually runs well.

The key, he said, will be SIU getting strong performances on the mound from starting pitchers Adam Curynski (1-1, 5.56 ERA) and Nathan Forer (0-3, 4.50 ERA).

‘I know they have quite a few stolen bases and they’ll try to make some things happen on offense, but we’ll be all right,’ Henderson said. ‘Our big thing is if we get quality starts from Forer and Curynski, and play like we did (Tuesday), we’ll be all right.’

As for the Panthers’ roster turnover, the key player gone from last year’s roster is Brandon Douglas, who led Northern Iowa with a .396 batting average and won the MVC Joe Carter Player of the Year award. He also had 10 home runs, 60 RBIs and a .676 slugging percentage in 54 games, going a perfect 10-for-10 in stolen base attempts.

Panther junior outfielder Travis Bennett has a .382 batting average this season, with two home runs and 23 RBIs in 17 games. His batting average is second on the team, just one point below catcher/first baseman James Dinizo’s mark of .383.

The Salukis’ leading hitter this year is freshman first baseman Chris Serritella, who is hitting .389 with a team-leading three home runs. Junior right fielder Aaron Roberts, who moved into Elmendorf’s spot as the No. 2 hitter Tuesday, is second on SIU with a .347 batting average.

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Elmendorf, who said he would hit anywhere in the Salukis’ lineup, also said the Panthers will look for redemption after SIU took two of three games in Northern Iowa last season, and also because the Panthers’ baseball program will be discontinued after this season.

‘It’s big for us just to come out and play well now that it’s conference season, because it’s pretty much a whole new season for us from here,’ Elmendorf said.

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