Daily Egyptian

Big swings leads Salukis past Murray State

By Dillon Gilliland, Sports Reporter

Junior pitcher Hunter Hart looked for a win in his debut start against the Murray State Racers on Military Appreciation Night at Itchy Jones Stadium.

The SIU baseball team came in the clutch late and outslugged Murray (17-20), 11-9.

Southern kicked things off in the first with a single by junior second baseman Nikola Vasic, who proceeded to steal second.

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Vasic followed up with another steal, however, the catcher sent the throw over the third baseman’s head allowing the junior to come home for the first run of the game.

Senior designated hitter Hunter Anderson kept things going for the Salukis in the second with a no-doubt home run that stretched SIU’s lead to two.

Anderson’s solo shot marked his third homer of the season, all against the Racers.

Murray found its first run of the game in the third as they put men on first and second with a couple of walks. Then, senior center fielder Gavin Wehby drove one to right field that plated one runner.

After a walk loaded the bases, sophomore third baseman Davis Sims hit a chopper down the left field line for a two-run double and a one-run lead.

With a fielding error by senior shortstop Connor Kopach, the Racers put up one more run for a 4-2 lead heading into the bottom of the third.

“I told them to keep believing,” head coach Ken Henderson said. “You can’t get demoralized.”

Southern put up another run in the third as Vasic doubled down the left field line, only to be driven in on an error and a fielder’s choice.

With the bases loaded in the top of the fourth, Murray put up its fifth run on a walk, followed by a groundout and a single that stretched the lead to 7-3.

After two more runs by the Salukis, MSU’s junior designated hitter Kyle Stevens hit a solo shot in the fifth for an 8-5 lead.

Anderson responded with a two-run home run, his second of the game, in the bottom of the fifth to bring his team back within one. He finished 2-3 with three runs scored and three RBI.

“I tried to go out there and swing it hard,” Anderson said. “Then good things started happening.”

After another run by Murray, SIU responded with a single and stolen base by Kopach, who was then driven in on an RBI single from senior first baseman Logan Blackfan, making it 9-8 in favor of MSU.

In the bottom of the eighth, with men on first and second and two outs, Blackfan came up with another big hit. This one, however, went over the left field fence and gave the Salukis an 11-9 lead after eight.

“There was two outs and I knew I needed a hit,” Blackfan said. “I tried to get a good pitch, worked my way into hitter’s count and got it.”

The homer marked Blackfan’s seventh home run of the season. He finished 3-5 with two runs and five RBI.

“I have all the confidence in the world in Logan,” Anderson said. “He will always get the job done.”

The Racers could not get anything going late as freshman reliever Trey McDaniel closed out the final two innings for the 11-9 win.

McDaniel (2-4) got the win with his two perfect innings of work.

Hart lasted 2.1 innings in his debut start. He finished with four earned runs, three walks and a strikeout.

SIU (20-17, 4-5 MVC) will travel to Cookeville, Tennessee on Friday to take on No. 21 Tennessee Tech in a three-game series. First pitch is scheduled for 6 p.m. Senior starting pitcher Michael Baird will likely get the start.

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

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