Salukis riding hot start of pitchers


By Ted Ward, @TedWard_DE

A new season and new mindset has lead to solid performances for SIU baseball’s pitching corps.

Pitching coach P.J. Finigan has stressed getting ahead in counts and now his guys own a Missouri Valley Conference-leading 2.90 ERA going into Thursday’s game against Memphis. The success of the staff has led the Salukis to a 13-8-1 record — the team finished 2015 with a 12-46 record. 

“It’s something new ‘Fin’ has stressed to us this year,” senior pitcher Alex Lesiak said. “We’re trying to go out and pound the zone to get ahead in the count while going after hitters.”


Lesiak said after three pitches of each at-bat, they hope to be two strikes ahead or have the batter out.

The Salukis have seven pitchers with a 3.00 ERA or lower, and through 22 games, they have surrendered 76 runs, which ranks first in the MVC. Opposing teams are batting .225, which is second best in the conference. 

“Our starters are doing a good job going deeper into games by getting ahead of hitters and not getting behind in the count,” Finigan said. “For our relievers, we’ve put guys in spots they can be successful — where they can control the pace of the game. You’re not going to see our freshmen a lot in late-game situations with runners on.” 

Finigan said he tries to focus on all his pitchers’ skill sets and doesn’t emphasize a certain area.

Junior pitcher Joey Marciano (2-2, 3.00 ERA) said the starters throw almost 25 pitches in a bullpen session and long toss when they’re not scheduled for bullpen, which happens two or three times a week depending when their last start was.

While the pitchers haven’t struck out many hitters — ranking sixth in the MVC with 142 — the starters have turned games over to the bullpen after a solid start. 

The starters this season average between six and seven innings per start.


Junior pitcher Anthony Shimkus (3-0, 2.57 ERA) said the relievers have focused on their late inning duties more because of the starters success.

“It’s a nice change of pace from last season because we’re not being rushed out there to get a starter out of a jam,” he said. “As relievers, we have to go out and get after it by throwing strikes right away and this season we haven’t fallen behind into fastball counts where we have to groove a fastball in and get pounded.”

Shimkus, junior Jacob Williams and sophomore closer Ryan Netemeyer have a combined 1.90 ERA as the three primary arms out of the ‘pen for coach Ken Henderson.

This season, Finigan turned the pitch calling duties over to his catchers and he said this has helped develop more of a connection because they communicate better.

Senior catcher Taylor Martin said even his more inexperienced battery mates have handled the transition well. 

“The younger guys are quick learners and they’ve been there when we needed them,” he said. “They’ve done a really good job establishing the fastball early and getting ahead and we try to put batters away with a breaking ball and it’s worked. As long as we keep doing that we’ll continue to be successful.”

The Salukis play Austin Peay at 5 p.m. Saturday at Itchy Jones Stadium. Senior Bryce Sablotny (2-1 4.67 ERA) will be the starter.

Ted Ward can be reached at [email protected] or 618-534-3303