Salukis fail to protect early lead, losing to Arkansas State in extra innings


Freshman pitcher Justin Yeager throws the ball Tuesday, March 28, 2017, during a game against Arkansas State at Itchy Jones Stadium. The Red Wolves beat the Salukis 4-3. (Branda Mitchell | @branda_mitchell)

By Denton "Gio" Giovenco

Southern plated three runs in the first inning, but failed to score again in a 4-3 extra inning loss to Arkansas State Tuesday night.

SIU (12-13) took the early lead in the bottom of the first inning with a little help from Arkansas State.

Junior second baseman Connor Kopach reached base to lead off the inning on a dropped third strike that saw the ball trickle all the way to the backstop.


Senior shortstop Will Farmer came to bat and hit a one-hopper back to the pitcher, but the Arkansas State shortstop could not handle the throw to second, allowing both Saluki runners to reach their bases safely.

With two on and one out, junior catcher Nick Hutchins drove an 0-2 pitch to the center field wall that scored Kopach and Farmer for a two RBI triple.

Three pitches into junior first baseman Logan Blackfan’s at bat, Hutchins came home to score the third run of the inning on a passed ball.

Senior outfielder Jake Hand practices his swing before batting Tuesday, March 28, 2017, during a game against Arkansas State at Itchy Jones Stadium. The Salukis lost to the Red Wolves 4-3. (Branda Mitchell | @branda_mitchell)

That would complete the scoring for the Salukis, as they played the final nine innings of the ten-inning game Tuesday night, unable to score another run.

“We gotta have better at bats,” Coach Ken Henderson said. “We didn’t have a lot of guys in scoring position, but when we did we just didn’t get the big hit tonight.”

In his first career start, freshman pitcher Henry Boeckmann took the mound Tuesday night for the Salukis.

Boeckmann pitched well through his first three innings, allowing one hit and no runs while walking one and hitting two batters. He failed to record an out in the top of the fourth inning before being pulled from the game after walking the first two batters he faced.


“I thought Boeckmann was pretty good,” Henderson said. “The guy’s first career start, and he gives us 3.0 innings and threw up some zeroes.”

Colt Strain, 2, son of SIU Assistant Coach Ryan Strain, throws a ball in the stands Tuesday, March 28, 2017, during the Salukis’ 4-3 loss to Arkansas State at Itchy Jones Stadium. (Branda Mitchell | @branda_mitchell)

Junior pitcher Jamison Steege came into the game in relief of Boeckmann and allowed one inherited runner to score before closing out the top of the fourth inning.

Steege ran into the same troubles as Boeckmann in the top of the fifth, walking the first two batters he faced before being removed in favor of freshman pitcher Justin Yeager.

Yeager also allowed an inherited runner to score before he shut the door on the top of the fifth inning.

In the top of the sixth, SIU again managed to place the lead-off runner on base when Yeager hit the first batter he faced with a pitch. This runner would come around to score in the inning, tying the game at 3-3.

“Overall, we give up three runs in nine innings,” Henderson said. “It wasn’t bad, but it’s magnified because we’re not scoring on offense and how those guys got on [base].”

Freshman pitcher Justin Yeager throws from the mound Tuesday, March 28, 2017, during the Salukis’ 4-3 loss to Arkansas State at Itchy Jones Stadium. (Branda Mitchell | @branda_mitchell)

Tuesday night’s game remained tied 3-3 after the ninth inning, forcing extras.

Arkansas State would strike first, manufacturing a run in the top of the tenth against Saluki senior pitcher Austin McPheron — who pitched a solid 3.2 innings in relief — to take the lead 4-3.

The Salukis failed to reach base safely in the bottom of the tenth inning, recording a fly out and two strikeouts to end their night.

“We’re not playing real well,” Henderson said. “We’re not swinging like we’re capable of, and certainly not executing pitches.”

Henderson added that such trials and tribulations are not a rare occurrence.

“That’s part of the nature of baseball,” he said. “It’s a game of ups and downs and right now we’re down.”

Henderson said he believes it’s all in the players’ minds at the moment, adding that he knows the Salukis will come around.

“More importantly right now is we’re not playing with a lot of confidence,” Henderson said. “My job is to get them confident again. We’re gonna get our confidence back … how quickly we get it back depends on what goes on between our ears. It’s gonna turn around, we [just] gotta stay at it.”

The Salukis travel to Charleston Wednesday to play Eastern Illinois at 3 p.m. Freshman pitcher Brad Harrison is set to make his first career start for Southern. SIU returns home Friday to begin its first in-conference games with a three-game series against Evansville.

Sports writer Denton “Gio” Giovenco can be reached at or on Twitter @DentonGiovenco.

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