No place but home for Saluki baseball

No place but home for Saluki baseball

By Thomas Donley, @tdonleyDE

The SIU baseball team got a taste of life on the road in its first four games of the season. Now, the Salukis will spend the next seven weeks getting used to playing at home.

Starting Friday, SIU will play 27 of its next 30 games at Itchy Jones Stadium. The next time the Salukis go on the road for a weekend series will be April 15 to 17.

“It’s a huge advantage, being at home and playing on our turf,” coach Ken Henderson said. “The challenge is who we’re playing.”

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SIU welcomes Western Illinois to Carbondale this weekend. The next three weekends feature Iowa, St. John’s and Illinois — all teams that made the NCAA Tournament in 2015.

“We’ve got them at home, but they’ll be challenging opponents,” Henderson said. “But I like that and I think our team likes that, too.”

Other series on the home stand feature Northern Illinois, Memphis and Jacksonville State.

Away games during that stretch will be at Belmont, Arkansas State and Murray State.

Sophomore catcher Nick Hutchins said the playing surface of Abe Martin Field provides an advantage for the Salukis because it’s so familiar.

The AstroTurf surface SIU plays its home games on not only makes for true bounces on ground balls, but also drains up to eight inches of water per hour, making rainouts virtually impossible.

“I feel really good when I throw at home,” senior pitcher Colten Selvey said. “It’s a turf field, so you’re not going to get the bad hops. It’s a big park. It’s a pitcher’s park. It’s hard to hit the ball out of there.

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“It’s more comfortable at home. You don’t have to worry about the bus rides [at home]. You don’t have to worry about getting off the bus, getting stretched and being in a hurry. You just kind of relax, maybe hang out in the clubhouse and listen to music with the guys.”

But being away from home has some positives as well. 

Henderson said an advantage of playing on the road is that it’s easier to keep track of players’ activity, but the Salukis’ underclassmen-laden roster does not need much monitoring.

“We’ve got good kids,” Henderson said. “We haven’t had an off-the-field issue in three years, so I don’t worry about this club. I don’t have to worry about these guys going out, because none of them are old enough to get into the bars.

“Another thing is we don’t know what they’re eating here. We can kind of control the menu when we’re on the road, but here, we can’t do that.”

The Salukis long home stretch begins at 2 p.m. Friday against Western Illinois. 

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

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