BOWLING GREEN, Ky. -- After waiting an extra day to start the season, SIU waited until the eighth inning to take its first lead in a 3-2 Opening Day victory over Western Kentucky on Saturday.

The Salukis fell behind 2-0 in the first inning then rallied for a pair of late runs on a frigid afternoon at Nick Denes Field.

“It was a great job by our kids, persevering, hanging in there and finding a way to get it done,” said SIU coach Ken Henderson. “We need to learn how to win, and winning a game like this is a step in the right direction.”

Trailing 2-1 after seven innings, SIU took the lead with a two-run rally in the eighth. Jake Welch led off with a single to left field. After Parker Osborne bunted him to second base, Matt Jones lined a single to left field, and Welch slid home just ahead of the tag to tie the game at 2-2.

“I got a fastball and was able to take it into left field,” Jones said. “It felt pretty good to finally get a hit and for it to be in that situation, so that’s a good start to the year.”

Western Kentucky then brought in Brandon Allen to face Ryan Casillas, who singled to put runners at the corners. Cody Daily followed with a sacrifice fly to chase home Jones with the go-ahead run.

Derek Fogel pitched a perfect eighth, and Tyler Dray threw a scoreless ninth to pick up the save. Both Fogel and Dray struck out the final two batters of their respective inning. Dray moved into a sixth-place tie on SIU’s all-time list with his 10th career save.

“The entire bullpen was great today,” Henderson said. “To go five and two-thirds and give up one hit and no runs, all those guys did a great job.”

The Salukis wrap up their series with Western Kentucky today with a 11 a.m. doubleheader.

-- Saluki Media Services

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