Daily Egyptian

Bad luck strikes Saluki baseball in loss to UC Irvine

Senior+Michael+Baird%2C+31%2C+of+Parker%2C+Colo.+pitches+on+Friday%2C+March+23%2C+2018%2C+during+the+Saluki%E2%80%99s+2-6+loss+against+University+of+California%2C+Irvine+at+Itchy+Jones+Stadium.+%28Mary+Newman+%7C+%40MaryNewmanDE%29
Senior Michael Baird, 31, of Parker, Colo. pitches on Friday, March 23, 2018, during the Saluki’s 2-6 loss against University of California, Irvine at Itchy Jones Stadium. (Mary Newman | @MaryNewmanDE)

Senior Michael Baird, 31, of Parker, Colo. pitches on Friday, March 23, 2018, during the Saluki’s 2-6 loss against University of California, Irvine at Itchy Jones Stadium. (Mary Newman | @MaryNewmanDE)

Mary Newman

Mary Newman

Senior Michael Baird, 31, of Parker, Colo. pitches on Friday, March 23, 2018, during the Saluki’s 2-6 loss against University of California, Irvine at Itchy Jones Stadium. (Mary Newman | @MaryNewmanDE)

By Dillon Gilliland, Sports Reporter

Saluki baseball hosted the UC Irvine Anteaters on Friday afternoon for the first of a three-game series.

Bad luck held the Salukis back as they fell to UC Irvine (12-8) in ten innings, 6-2.

“At the end of the day we did a ton of good things,” head coach Ken Henderson said. “But we made two or three mistakes that just killed us.”

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The matchup marked the second time the two programs have met and also the first time a California school traveled to Southern Illinois.

After senior first baseman Logan Blackfan singled in the second inning, the Salukis missed out on a prime scoring opportunity.

Sophomore catcher Austin Ulick appeared to find the gap in right-center for extra bases, however, sophomore right fielder Konnor Zickefoose made a diving catch that prevented a run from scoring.

After five scoreless innings, Southern finally put a run on the board as senior shortstop Connor Kopach lined a single up the middle and was brought in by Blackfan for a 1-0 lead.

In the top of the seventh, Zickefoose got the ball rolling with a single and a steal of second base. With a double down the right-field line, UC Irvine tied the game up at one.

The Anteaters continued their charge in the eighth as they opened with a double and moved to third on a wild pitch. Then, Zickefoose singled and, yet again, drove in the go-ahead run for the 2-1 advantage.

From left: Senior Michael Baird consults sophomore Austin Ulick, 17, of Washington, Friday, March 23, 2018, during the Saluki’s 2-6 loss against University of California, Irvine at Itchy Jones Stadium. (Mary Newman | @MaryNewmanDE)

In the bottom of the ninth, the Salukis stayed alive with a run as Ulick doubled down the left-field line. Sophomore designated hitter Brad Harrison followed with a double of his own that scored the game at two and sent the game into extra innings.

“This team always battles,” Ulick said. “We’re a bunch of competitors.”

Southern had a chance to walk off during Ulick’s at bat, however, junior left fielder Alex Lyon attempted to steal second and over-slid the bag, which forced him to try for third where he was tagged out.

“There were several bad breaks today,” Henderson said. “But there were some things that we could control that we didn’t control.”

In the tenth, UC Irvine put up a four-run inning, including a three-run home run off the bat of senior first baseman Ryan Fitzpatrick.

The Salukis had no response in the bottom of the inning and suffered a 6-2 loss in the opening game of the series.

Freshman reliever Trey McDaniel (1-3) took the loss for SIU after he gave up one earned run through 1.2 innings.

Senior starting pitcher Michael Baird turned in a solid performance for the Salukis with two earned runs, one walk and eight strikeouts in 7.2 innings.

“Baird was outstanding,” Henderson said. “Today was two big time pitchers in college baseball doing what they do.”

As a whole, Southern struggled at the plate with 12 total strikeouts.

“We’ve got to eliminate the strikeouts,” Henderson said. “[Sophomore starting pitcher Andre Pallante] is legit; when you have a chance to score on him, you have to score.”

SIU (10-12) will play the second of three game series against UC Irvine on Saturday. First pitch is scheduled for 2 p.m. Senior starting pitcher Jamison Steege (2-1, 3.77 ERA) will get the start for SIU.

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

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