CARBONDALE — After the Southern Illinois University baseball team took the lead in the bottom of the seventh, the University of Louisiana-Monroe scored two runs in the top of the ninth to come from behind and beat the Salukis, 5-4, in the Salukis home opener Friday afternoon.
"You make the assumption the ninth inning was crucial, but the fourth, fifth and sixth innings was where the ballgame was lost," said SIU coach Ken Henderson. "First, in the bottom of the fourth we get a leadoff double and three hitters later he’s still standing at second. Ball clubs that are playing well get that run and move him over and get him in without getting a hit. You can’t leave a leadoff double out there. Then we go out and give up two unearned runs. Now we should be up 4-1 instead of 3-3 and that’s the ballgame. Those are things we’ll clean up because we’re better than that. Give them credit, they grind out at-bats in the ninth, but that ballgame shouldn’t have been a one-run ballgame in the ninth inning."
SIU (3-6) fell behind 1-0 in the first inning, but rallied for three runs in the third inning. ULM (7-2) kept chipping away scoring single runs in the fifth and sixth innings to tie the game before SIU scored an unearned run in the seventh on a pick-off error to take the lead, 4-3.
Still holding that lead, Saluki closer Ryan Netermeyer took over the pitching duties in the ninth and came in throwing smoke striking out the first two batters on six pitches, but he walked Johnny DeLaCruz on fourth pitches to give the Warhawks a final chance and they took advantage.
"We put ourselves in a situation to win at the end," said ULM coach Michael Federico. "We had some damage control innings that I’m really proud of our guys for persevering through some things and finding a way to win."
On a 1-1 pitch, Spencer Hemphill reached on a seeing-eye ground ball that got past reserve third baseman Grey Epps putting runners at first and second. On a 1-0 pitch, Chad Bell hit a liner that landed just inside the line in the left field corner to clear the bases and drive in the winning runs.
"The other thing people don’t realize about the game is if we don’t make the errors early then you are facing different people in the ninth," Henderson said. "Maybe you’re at the bottom of the lineup instead of three and four. All those little bitty things early in the game add up at the end. That’s the things we got to clean up."
The Salukis had their chances early on, but wasted a leadoff walk to Logan Blackfan followed by a base hit by Kenton Crawford in the second, a leadoff double by Hunter Anderson in the fourth and a leadoff single by Blackfan in the sixth.
The three-game series continues today with a 2 p.m. game and will conclude on Sunday at 1 p.m.
ULM jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the top of the first with two outs against Saluki starter Michael Baird. DeLaCruz got it started with one out on a bouncer up the middle on the first pitch. After a strikeout, Bell lined Baird’s first pitch again to left center field for a double to drive in DeLaCruz from first.
The Salukis got to Warhawk starter Trey Jeans in the third with a one-out rally. The ninth man in the order Addison Fugitt got it started by hitting Jeans’ first-pitch over the mound and into center field. After a passed ball advanced Fugitt to second Connor Kopach beat out a slow chopper to third to put runners at the corners.
Nikola Vasic followed with a screamer on a 1-1 pitch that ate up the second basemen for a base hit and then got past the pulled-in center fielder for a two base error to clear the bases and give the Salukis the lead. One out later, Blackfan lined a 0-1 pitch to right to plate Nikola Visac and up the lead to 3-1.
Baird was cruising along in the fifth when a two-out throwing error by Kopach on a hopper by Hemphill opened the door leading to Baird issuing his first walk before giving up a single up the middle to Lacoste to drive in Hemphill and cut the lead to 3-2.
The Warhawks tied the game in the sixth on another error. Turner Francis led off with a base hit to right. Two outs later, Braedon Barrett hit a ground ball to third, which Weber fielded cleanly, but his throw was in the dirt allowing Francis to score from second.
The Salukis threatened to retake the lead in the bottom of the sixth after Blackfan led off with a base hit and pinch-hitter Bradley Harrison was walked with two outs. The inning ended with the score still tied when pinch-runner Grey Epps was picked off first by the catcher on a 1-2 pitch.
The Salukis took advantage of some wildness by the Warhawks to retake the lead in the bottom of the seventh. With one out Fugitt got it started again drawing a walk off Dunn and then stealing second.
One out later Dunn was ahead 1-2 on Vasic when the Warhawk coach brought in another right-hander Cole Gray to finish the at-bat.
Gray immediately had trouble finding the plate with two high pitches to work the count full. His 3-2 pitch was low and outside in the dirt getting past the catcher allowing Fugitt to advance to third and Vasic to reach first on the walk with Alex Lyon coming up.
The first pitch to Lyon was a strike on the outside corner. Then Gray attempted to pick off Vasic, but his throw got past the first baseman allowing Fugitt to score and give the Salukis a 4-3 lead and Vasic to advance to third, but he was stranded there when Lyon struck out swinging.
Gray (1-0) set down the side in the eighth inning with two strikeouts on 14 pitches before handing off to Keegan Curtis who pitched a perfect ninth striking out the final two batters to pick up his first save.