Durable infielders cultivating chemistry up the middle

By Thomas Donley, @tdonleyDE

One of the most important spots on a baseball field for two defenders to have good chemistry is at second base and shortstop. Out of necessity, freshman shortstop Chase Slone and sophomore second baseman Will Farmer have become familiar with each other this spring.

Slone and Farmer have both started all 45 games this year. Slone has played every inning of the season at short, and Farmer has started 42 games at second. Farmer started three of the Salukis’ first five games at third base before sophomore second baseman Connor Kopach went down with a broken left wrist.

Slone said he and Farmer developed their chemistry quickly.

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“We’ve gotten to know each other pretty well,” Slone said. “I know where his double play feeds are going to be, and he knows where my throws are going to be.”

Slone does not anticipate any difference when Kopach returns to the Saluki lineup. Kopach’s injury limits him at the plate, but he routinely takes infield practice.

“He’s a really good player, too,” Slone said. “We worked together a lot in the preseason and we got to learn [each other’s double play throws]. Once [Farmer] slid over, it took about or week or so before I learned everything about him.”

Saluki coach Ken Henderson said Slone and Farmer’s chemistry has come together in a big way this spring.

“It’s grown and grown,” Henderson said. “When you play side by side for 40 games, you have to get a feel for what each other is doing. That’s important, probably more so in the middle infield than anywhere else on the field.”

Not only do Slone and Farmer play side by side defensively, but they also find their names penciled one after the other at the top of Henderson’s lineup card.

Kopach started the season as SIU’s leadoff hitter, but Slone has started the last 30 games in the No. 1 spot in the order. Kopach, Farmer, sophomore center fielder Dyllin Mucha and freshman center fielder Braden Mosley took turns in the leadoff spot before Slone nailed it down.

Slone said he has not had much experience leading off before this season, but he has settled in.

“That was something that was a little new to me,” Slone said. “But over the past few games, I’ve relaxed and seen some more pitches. I’ve learned that if I’m leading off, and I get on, it can lead to a really big inning.”

Slone is batting .272 this season with 1 home run and 12 RBIs. Henderson said he projects more as a No. 2 hitter.

After batting first, second, sixth and eighth in SIU’s first six games, Farmer moved into the No. 2 spot Feb. 22 and has not left since. He said he has grown comfortable there.

“I feel like I’ve handled it pretty well,” Farmer said. “I feel like I can help the team with a couple of sac bunts or something like that. I hit there in high school, so it’s nothing new to me.”

Farmer is batting .244 with 14 RBIs. He leads the Salukis with 9 sacrifices.

Farmer said before the season started he did not anticipate starting every game with Kopach, freshman third baseman Greg Lambert and sophomore third baseman Ryan Sabo all on the roster. However, that was something Slone shot for.

“That was one of my goals coming in,” Slone said. “I put the work in and made it happen.”

Slone is the only shortstop on the Saluki roster. Henderson said if Slone were to go down, Sabo would play second and Farmer would move to short.

Farmer said the grind of playing every day wears on him from time to time, but it is worth it.

“Sometimes I feel a little tired,” Farmer said. “Especially after a long weekend or something. But you’ve got to love coming out and playing every day.”

 Thomas Donley can be reached at [email protected] or at 536-3311 ext. 269.

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