Timely hits lead SIU to 6-1 victory over WKU in home opener

    Sam Coonrod allowed one run in six innings to earn his first win of the season.

    Sam Coonrod allowed one run in six innings to earn his first win of the season.
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    March 3, 2013

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    CARBONDALE, Ill. – SIU’s home opener proved to be worth the wait as the Salukis beat Western Kentucky 6-1 Sunday afternoon at Abe Martin Field. The game was pushed back two days as a result of snow earlier in the weekend, and when it was finally played, SIU (5-4) managed just seven hits but took advantage of errors from the Hilltoppers (3-6) all afternoon.

    “We got a little help,” SIU Coach Ken Henderson said, “but we capitalized on mistakes. I’m proud that while we didn’t have a ton of great ABs, we had some clutch ABs. It was an efficient offensive day but not a great offensive day.”

    Cody Daily gave SIU a 3-1 lead when he broke a 1-1 tie in the bottom of the fourth with a two-run double to the warning track in left. The hit came with a full count after he had fouled off multiple pitches. Those were the only two earned runs the Salukis scored on the day and gave SIU the lead for good.

    “That was huge,” Henderson said. “At that point, you’re just trying to put the ball in play and get one in. Then he hits a double in the corner and gets both of them in. That was by far the biggest AB of the game. Two runs doesn’t break it open, but it gave us some confidence at the plate.”

    Starting pitcher Sam Coonrod turned in his best outing of the young season to earn his first win of 2013. In six innings of work, he allowed just one run off four hits.

    “(Pitching) Coach (P.J.) Finigan told me not to worry about throwing it to a perfect spot because it’s so cold,” Coonrod said. “He said just throw it in the zone and down, and they’ll hit ground balls.”

    The strategy worked for the sophomore who induced six ground balls and matched a career-high with seven strikeouts. It was the second time this season he recorded seven punchouts. At one point in the game, Coonrod retired eight batters in a row.

    “I was able to throw the fastball over the plate a lot more today,” Coonrod said. “My slider was also a lot better today, so it helped that I had two pitches working instead of just one.”

    WKU had knotted the game at 1-1 in the top of the fourth inning when Ryan Huck hit a two-out single to left field  to score Regan Flaherty. It was the only inning in which the Hilltoppers advanced a runner past second base. Coonrod was able to limit the damage from there as he induced a flyout to end the inning.

    Andrew Edwards started the game for Western Kentucky and took the loss. He allowed four runs, two of them earned, off five hits in five innings pitched.

    Already leading 3-1, the Salukis manufactured an insurance run in the fifth inning. With one out, Ryan Rosthenhausler reached on an infield single on a ground ball to the left side of the pitchers mound. Edwards’ throw to first was off target, allowing Rosthenhausler to advance to second base. Two batters later, Ryan Casillas singled up the middle to score Rosthenhausler and push the lead to 4-1. Rosthenhausler had three hits and scored three runs in the game.

    Casillas added a sacrifice fly to his stat line in the Salukis’ two-run seventh inning, which extended the lead to 6-1. The rally was helped by a pair of Hilltopper errors. WKU committed four errors in the game.

    Southern’s bullpen did not allow any visions of a WKU comeback, tossing three scoreless innings. Reliever Tyler Dray entered the game to start the seventh inning with a 4-1 lead and pitched two scoreless, hitless innings. Jacob Williams allowed a one-out double and walk but hung a zero on the scoreboard in the ninth to close the game.

    The victory broke a streak of five straight years in which SIU had lost its home opener. The Dawgs will try to sweep the abbreviated series on Monday with the first pitch at 1 p.m.