Saluki baseball preps for nation’s elite

By Gus Bode

One weekend series in the Missouri Valley Conference could shape up to be a future Major League Baseball player showcase.

The Salukis (19-15, 3-6 MVC) will take on the Wichita State Shockers at 7 p.m. today at Eck Stadium. Combined, the teams boast some of the nation’s top pro prospects.

Wichita State (27-6, 7-2) is the No. 6 team in the nation, according to the USA Today college baseball poll, making it the highest-ranked team SIU has played this season.

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SIU coach Dan Callahan said everyone was in better spirits after ending a four-game losing streak against Southeast Missouri State 5-4 Tuesday before heading to what could be the toughest series of the season.

“It certainly makes the bus ride to Wichita a whole lot more enjoyable because it’s the worst trip of the year as far as time and distance,” Callahan said. “Whenever you leave the ballpark in good spirits that’s always a good thing.”

The Shockers feature the Rivals.com preseason No. 13 junior pitcher Aaron Shafer, current No. 2 junior third baseman Conor Gillaspie as well as the No. 12 senior catcher Tyler Weber.

Junior outfielder Kenny Williams Jr., son of Chicago White Sox general manager Ken Williams, is second to Gillaspie with a .379 batting average.

Gillaspie leads the Shockers with a .398 batting average and 40 RBIs.

The Salukis have their share of potential big leaguers as well.

Junior catcher Mark Kelly led the offense with three RBIs while going 2-for-4 at the plate in a 5-4 win against the Redhawks. Kelly is rated by Rivals.com as the No. 13 catcher in the nation.

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He said the win against Southeast Missouri State was important from a confidence perspective.

“After getting swept by Bradley at our place it was huge to get the confidence back because we’re going to face a good team on the road and we’ve got to get back in the win column,” Kelly said.

SIU will send junior Cody Adams to the mound to oppose senior pitcher Rob Musgrave.

Musgrave is 4-1 with a 2.55 ERA. He also has a team-high 51 strikeouts in 53 innings.

Adams anchors the Saluki staff with a 2-2 record and a 3.51 ERA.

Shafer will take his 6-1 record and 3.04 ERA to the mound at 2 p.m. Saturday against senior pitcher Shawn Joy.

Joy is 3-2 with a 3.61 ERA. He also has 23 strikeouts in 52.1 innings of work.

In Sunday’s 1 p.m. series finale, SIU junior pitcher David Kington will take on junior Anthony Capra.

Capra is the stingiest of the Wichita State staff with a 6-0 record and a 1.75 ERA. He has struck out 48 batters while issuing eight walks.

Kington is 1-2 with a 3.79 ERA in seven starts. He has 32 strikeouts in 35.2 innings pitched.

Matt Hartwig can be reached at 536-3311 ext. 282 or at [email protected]

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