INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. — After trailing 5-1 in the seventh inning, the Southern Illinois baseball team put the tying run in scoring position in the ninth, but Butler held on for a 5-4 win to take the opener on Friday.
The Salukis were facing Butler ace Ryan Pepiot, a projected top-three round pick in the upcoming MLB Draft. Pepiot lived up to the billing, sitting mid-90s with his fastball. He struck out the first four hitters he faced and ended up with 12 strikeouts on the game.
"It was a good college baseball game," SIU head coach Ken Henderson said. "We faced a really, really good pitcher, one of the better pitchers we will see this year. We were a little over aggressive and trying to do too much, but we settled in and took better swings as the game went on. We're going to face good pitching in league play, so we have to be able to score on guys like that."
Butler (16-9) took a 2-0 lead in the second inning. SIU (14-10) got a run back when Alex Lyon doubled in the third, and Addison Fugitt drove him home with a single. The Bulldogs pushed the lead to 5-1 with a three-run third, but SIU starter Dylan Givens battled through two scoreless innings after that to keep SIU within striking distance. Givens gave way to Corey Mitson, who pitched a scoreless sixth, and Justin Yeager used four strikeouts in five outs to keep Butler off the board through the eighth.
Ian Walters drew a walk in the seventh inning, and Pepiot gave way after 6.2 innings and 102 pitches. The Salukis immediately pounced. J.T. Weber drew a walk and Philip Archer drove home Walters with an RBI single. Lyon singled home Weber and pushed Archer to third. Lyon then stole second base, and the throw went into center field to score Archer and bring SIU within 5-4.
"We had the right frame of mind," Henderson said. "We battled hard all day, even when we weren't getting it done early. The effort was outstanding all day long. Our demeanor was good. We fought as well as we have all year long on the road."
Weber drew a one-out walk in the ninth inning and moved into scoring position with two outs, but Butler got a grounder to end the game and take the series opener.
SIU and Butler will play the second game of the series at 11 a.m. today. Due to impending weather, the game could be moved to Grand Park in Westfield, Ind. Follow @SIU_Baseball on Twitter for schedule and location updates.