Strain brings aggressive style to Saluki offense

Strain brings aggressive style to Saluki offense

By Thomas Donley, @TDonleyDE

Southern Illinois head baseball coach Ken Henderson realized last season that he needed to make a change after more than 20 years of doing the same thing.

Henderson, who has coached third base for the Salukis since 1991, decided to delegate that responsibility to hitting coach Ryan Strain.

“Late in the year I made a couple mistakes,” Henderson said. “I don’t know that they impacted anything, but there was a situation where we had a left-handed hitter coming up and a left-handed pitcher on the mound, and I should’ve pinch hit, but I was thinking about coaching third.”

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Henderson said Strain makes about 90 percent of the decisions for the Saluki offense including base stealing, taking extra bases and hit-and-runs

“I feel like Strain’s a little more aggressive [than Henderson], which at times is a good thing, at times it can be bad,” said junior center fielder Dyllin Mucha, who is five for six in steal attempts this season after going five for seven in 2015. “I really like the aggressiveness. I think that’s given us a lot of success this year.”

Saluki baserunners stole 19 bases in 36 attempts in 58 games in 2015. Through 28 games this year, they have 25 steals in 36 tries.

SIU’s 25 steals are tied with Dallas Baptist for third in the Missouri Valley Conference. Missouri State leads with 28. Sophomore second baseman Connor Kopach is tied for fourth in the MVC with six stolen bases.

Strain said the view from the third base coach’s box affords him a better angle to see what Saluki hitters are doing at the plate as opposed to watching from the top step of the dugout.

“I like it better,” he said. “Sometimes when I’m in the dugout as a hitting coach, I can talk with the guys. But sometimes, I’m the first one they see when they come back to the dugout after an at-bat that didn’t go well, and that’s not necessarily the best thing.”

SIU is batting .269 on the season with a .351 on-base percentage and .370 slugging percentage. The Dawgs slashed .249/.321/.318 with Strain in the dugout last year.

Mucha said not having Strain in the dugout has its drawbacks.

“After an at-bat, if you feel like something wasn’t right, you want to talk to him, but he’s not going to be there, so it’s kind of difficult sometimes,” Mucha said. 

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

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