Saluki baseball loses home opener to Louisiana Monroe


Junior outfielder Kenton Crawford takes a moment to think Friday, March 2, 2018, during the Louisiana Monroe’s Warhawks 5-4 win over the Salukis’ at Itchy Jones Stadium. (Cameron Hupp | @CHupp04)

By Dillon Gilliland, Sports Reporter

The SIU baseball team hosted its first game of the season against the Louisiana Monroe Warhawks on Friday afternoon.

In the first matchup of the three-game series, SIU could not hold off  Louisiana Monroe (7-2) and lost 5-4.

The Warhawks struck first in the opening inning as senior right fielder Johnny DelaCruz singled and strolled to home plate after a double to deep center by junior second baseman Chad Bell.

Sophomore center fielder Addison Fugitt got things going for the Salukis in the bottom half of the third when he reached with a single. Fugitt later advanced to second on a passed ball.

Senior shortstop Connor Kopach advanced Fugitt to third on an infield single. Then, junior second baseman Nikola Vasic cleared the bases with a single to center field and advanced to third on a fielding error.

Vasic made it home on a groundout to third base by junior left fielder Alex Lyon and increased the lead to 3-1 after three innings.

In what appeared to be a one-two-three inning, Louisiana Monroe stretched out the fifth and put another run on the board.

After a man reached on an error followed by a walk, junior third baseman Peyton Lacoste knocked in an RBI single that narrowed the deficit to 3-2.

Members of the Saluki Baseball team watch in anticipation Friday, March 2, 2018, during the Louisiana Monroe’s Warhawks 5-4 win over the Salukis’ at Itchy Jones Stadium. (Cameron Hupp | @CHupp04)

The Warhawks continued to fight back in the sixth as they kicked off the inning with a single by senior left fielder Turner Francis who advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt.

Francis made it home on a fielding error and tied the game up at three runs each.

The Salukis were able to get things going again in the seventh inning when Fugitt reached on a walk. Fugitt proceeded to steal second and Vasic followed with a walk on a wild pitch that advanced Fugitt to third.

In a failed attempt to pick off Vasic, Fugitt strolled home and made it 4-3 after seven innings.

“We had to fight through it,” Warhawks’ head coach Michael Federico said. “We had to persevere through some damaged stuff.”

After eight, Southern’s senior reliever Ryan Netemeyer took the mound looking for the save.

After striking out two, Netemeyer walked one followed by single that put men on first and second.

Bell doubled down the left field line and cleared the bases. The two-run doube gave the Warhawks a 5-4 lead in the final frame.

“He got the better part of the lineup,” head coach Ken Henderson said. “You have to give them credit, they grinded it out.”

Senior pitcher Michael Baird launches a fastball Friday, March 2, 2018, during the Louisiana Monroe’s Warhawks 5-4 win over the Salukis’ at Itchy Jones Stadium. (Cameron Hupp | @CHupp04)

Southern could not get anything going in the bottom half of the ninth and took the 4-3 loss.

“I’m proud of our guys,” Federico said. “We found a way to win.”

The Salukis struggled on the infield as they gave up three errors.

“We just didn’t make plays,” Henderson said. “You can’t give away outs to a good team.”

Senior starter Michael Baird (0-1) finished with four strikeouts along with seven hits and one earned run. Netemeyer (0-1) took the loss for the Salukis.

SIU (3-6) will host its second game of the three-game series tomorrow and will hand the ball to junior Jamison Steege (1-0). First pitch is scheduled for 2 p.m.

Sports reporter Dillon Gilliland can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter at @DillonGilliland.

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