Chris Barron and Dustin Duncan
It was the tale of two games on Thursday and Friday for the SIU baseball team.
On Thursday, SIU poured the offense on with a 8-3 win over the Bradley Braves from Peoria. The Salukis never trailed in the contest.
The Salukis got the offense started in the second inning with a sacrifice fly from Dylan Mucha and then Greg Lambert sent a pitch over the left field wall for a 2-0 lead in the third. Ryan Sabo followed suit in the 4th inning with this third homerun of the season.
The Braves responded in the fifth with an Ian Kristan homerun and Andy Shadid tripled with two men on to even up the game at 3.
However, that would end the scoring for Bradley as Chad Whitmer went seven innings, giving up only the three earned runs and striking out six.
In the sixth, an error by the Bradley shortshop allowed a run to score and Connor Kopach followed up with a single to center scoring two, giving the Salukis a 6-3 lead.
Later in the 8th inning, Kopach struck again with a triple down the right field line, scoring two. Kopach finished Thursday’s game with four runs batted in.
Saluki reliever Alex Gutermuth worked the final two innings with relatively no trouble to finish out the win.
Indiana State defeated Wichita State Thursday night 13-6, which locks down the third place seed in the Missouri Valley Conference tournament. So, the Salukis are playing for the fourth place slot.
However, the second tale of this story isn’t as pretty. The bats for SIU went silent and the defense was, at best, shaky on Friday.
The Saluki defense committed four errors and did not score a run by benefit of a hit in a losing effort to Bradley 7-2.
The game got started after about an hour rain delay, and Bradley got hot offensively early in the first inning. Saluki starter Jamison Steege gave up a two-run double to Bradley first baseman Luke Mangieri. SIU had a chance to catch the second runner at the plate, but a high throw nullified that opportunity.
The 2-0 Bradley lead stood tall until the sixth inning when the Braves exploded for a 5-run inning. The scoring started when designated hitter Derek Bangert launched a solo homerun over the left field fence for his 14th long ball of the year. Next, back-to-back singles by Mangieri and catcher Zack Fairchild, and a walk to outfielder Eric Gruener set the stage for outfielder Andy Shadid.
Shadid drove a Steege breaking ball over the head of Lambert in left field, bouncing off the wall scoring two runs.
At this point, Head coach Ken Henderson pulled the plug on Steege and brought in Johnston City reliever Austin McPheron.
McPheron hit the first batter he faced with his first pitch of the afternoon. Next, a fielder’s choice third made it 6-0 Braves. Next, Saluki shortstop Will Farmer booted a routine ground ball off the bat of Andrew Ivelia, making it 7-0.
SIU attempted to put up a fight in the 8th inning when it loaded the bases. The Salukis scratched across two runs with back-to-back bases-loaded walks, but a strike out and a fly out ended the threat.
SIU still has hopes for fourth place as it heads to the season finale Saturday at 11 a.m. on ESPN 3 in Peoria. The MVC tournament is scheduled to begin on Wednesday.
Chris Barron and Dustin Duncan