Saluki middle infield coordinated on, off field

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Saluki middle infield coordinated on, off field

By Thomas Donley, @TDonleyDE |Daily Egyptian

Roommates and partners up the middle, junior shortstop Will Farmer and redshirt sophomore second baseman Connor Kopach form the Missouri Valley Conference’s top double play-turning combination.

The two have been teammates since the 2013-14 season and attribute their on-field chemistry, at least in part, to a game they play in their apartment.

“We play Nerf basketball at home,” Kopach said. “We usually have a countdown from three and see who can make the basket, so that might help.”

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Southern Illinois leads the MVC with an average of 1.10 double plays turned per game. The Salukis are in a six-way tie for 14th in the nation in that category.

“I give all of my success to the defense,” senior right-handed starter Bryce Sablotny said. “”They’ve always had my back, whether I give up two or four runs in the first inning, they’re right there battling with me, keeping my head positive.”

Farmer said when the Saluki pitching staff works quickly, it contributes as much to the defense as Sablotny said the defense helps him.

“If you get guys out there taking their time, walking around the mound and slowing the game down, you kind of get tired and forget what you’re doing out there,” Farmer said. “But if you get guys like [sophomore right-hander Michael] Baird and [junior righty Chad] Whitmer that are always around the zone, there’s balls going all over the place all the time, so you’re really staying on top of it.”

Baird’s WHIP of 0.72 is second in the MVC and 16th overall nationally. Whitmer holds opponents to a 0.97 WHIP.

SIU’s earned run average is 2.69, best in the Valley and 22nd best in the nation.

The Dawgs have turned a team-high six of their 22 twin killings with Whitmer on the mound and four behind Baird.

“We spend a lot of time working [on infield defense],” coach Ken Henderson said. “And we’ve got pitchers that throw strikes and get ground balls. When you get opportunities, you’ve got to turn them, so we work on that, and our infielders have good, quick hands, so it’s a combination of things.”

Thomas Donley can be reached at [email protected] or at 618-536-3307

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