By Scott Gierman
March 3, 2012
DELAND, Fla. – Southern Illinois bounced back after surrendering an early six-run lead to defeat No. 19 Stetson, 11-8, in the Salukis’ second game of the Bright House Invitational Saturday night at Melching Field at Conrad Park. It was SIU’s first non-conference road victory over a ranked opponent since the Dawgs beat No. 15 Ole Miss in 2005.
“It’s certainly a confidence booster,” SIU Coach Ken Henderson said. “That’s a very good ballclub, and to come in here and win on their field, that’s a big win for us. It was a great team win.”
SIU capitalized on the Hatters mistakes at key points in the game. The Salukis took a 9-8 lead in the top of the seventh inning when Wes Neece hit a slow roller to first base, and Stetson pitcher Austin Perez dropped the flip to the base as Austin Montgomery scored from second base on the play. Perez took the loss for Stetson.
SIU added breathing room to the lead in the eighth thanks to back-to-back run-scoring wild pitches to extend the lead to 11-8.
The Saluki bullpen combined to throw five hitless innings. Matt Murphy picked up his first win of the season. He entered the game to start the fifth inning with the score tied at 8-8 and tossed two and two-third scoreless innings. He did not allow a hit or a walk, but he departed in the seventh with two men on base following two errors. Tyler Dray relieved Murphy and came through with a rally-killing strikeout to end the inning with the Dawgs still in front 9-8. Todd Eaton pitched two hitless innings and struck out four batters to earn his second save of 2012.
Henderson gave credit to catcher Luke Mottashed’s defense allowing the Salukis to pitch with confidence.
“He was phenomenal behind the plate,” Henderson said. “That might’ve been the biggest thing in the game. Our pitchers had confidence throwing any pitch knowing that he was going to block it, and he did a great job back there. Those are little things that don’t show up in the box score but were huge to the win.”
The Salukis had the momentum early in the game. In the second inning, Donny Duschinsky’s grand slam put an exclamation point on a five-run second inning. The big inning was made possible when the right side of the Stetson defense allowed two pop ups to drop in shallow right field with three fielders in the area. An inning later, Nick Johnson hit his second home run in as many games to extend the Salukis advantage to 6-0.
The Hatters had not allowed a home run in nine games in 2012. In total, Stetson starter Lindsey Caughel surrendered eight runs off 10 hits in four innings of work. He struck out seven and did not issue any walks. He ERA ballooned from 0.69 to 4.76.
“(Caughel) is by far the most talented kid we’ve faced all year,” Henderson said, “but our approach was good with him. We had some good swings.”
Stetson rallied for six runs off seven hits in the bottom of the third inning to tie the game at 6-6. Six consecutive Hatters batters reached base in the inning. SIU starter Cameron Maldonado departed after surrendering two more runs in the fourth.
“I thought Moldando had the best stuff he’s had all year,” Henderson said. “He was cruising in the first two innings, and then when he gave up the first two runs, he lost a little intensity and then recovered and got it back. But I thought his stuff was tremendous.”
The Salukis will try to finish the weekend a perfect 3-0 when the Bright House Invitational concludes on Sunday. SIU will have Nathan Dorris on the mound to face Penn at 10 a.m. Central Time.