CARBONDALE — SIU center fielder Tristan Peters knows his zone. In the field. At the plate. And between the lines instead of between the boards.
Peters, a Manitoba, Canada native, played all the sports Canadians do growing up before picking hardball as a junior. It was not hard for him to give up hockey.
"(Baseball) was more fun. I enjoyed it more," Peters said. "And then hockey was too many injuries. Hockey, it was just too dangerous, I guess, but I enjoyed baseball more."
SIU (24-6, 4-4 Missouri Valley Conference) has enjoyed the addition of the 6-foot sophomore in center field, where he earned an NJCAA Gold Glove in 2019 at Chandler-Gilbert Community College in Arizona. Peters hit .354 during the shortened season there in 2020, and enters this weekend's series at Bradley (9-13, 3-4) second in the Valley in hitting (.411). His 33 runs scored are tied for the second-most in the league with teammate Ian Walters (SIU's Nick Neville is first with 38), his 11 doubles are the third-most in the league, and he has the best on-base percentage of anyone in the Valley at .525 in 30 starts.
"It's just been more patience, to be honest with you," Peters said. "See more pitches, and there's just been a lot more off-speed than I was used to in JUCO, and I'm just kind of feeling pitchers out to get my pitch to hit. Just seeing more pitches and being more selective, that's helped me a lot."
SIU coach Lance Rhodes said Peters has two of the best qualities a collegiate hitter can have, patience and selection. Peters didn't do anything to get himself out after drawing three walks in his first three at-bats Sunday against Northern Illinois (some hitters get too anxious), and the all-conference outfielder knows his limits at the plate.
"He's got such good bat-to-ball skills, there's really no zone, up, down, in, out, that he can't cover," Rhodes said. "He stays in the zone a long time with his swing, so he's a high-contact-type guy. He might not be the prototype 4 hitter, as far as the amount of home runs he hits, but the amount of hard contact that he has in the 4 hole is exactly what our team needs."
Peters has only two home runs all season, but has walked more than twice as much as he's struck out, with 28 free passes and 13 Ks in 107 at-bats. With Neville, a preseason all-conference shortstop that is batting over .300, and Vinni Massaglia (.284, 10 home runs, 29 RBIs) behind him, Peters has gotten a lot of pitches to hit. The Salukis lead the Valley in batting at .325, RBIs (273), doubles (66), homers (51) and walks (154).
Eight SIU hitters are batting over .300, and second baseman Cody Cleveland raised his average to .294 with a hot weekend against Bellarmine and Northern Illinois. Peters has proven to be one of the team's toughest outs.
"The biggest thing is the moment never gets too big for him," Rhodes said. "He's super confident, knows the strike zone exceptionally well. He's just a heckuva player, and to put him in the 4 hole and be able to build your lineup around him is big."
Peters, 21, just feels like he does his job in a lineup that is averaging over nine runs a game.
"I'm very confident, especially in our defense and our hitting," he said. "If we need to, we'll continue to lead, and we'll pick our pitchers up if they're not having a great day, and our defense has done it's job when it's been in the field."
618-351-5087 / On Twitter: @THefferman