Jake Welch drove in the game-winning run in both ends of Saturday's doubleheader.
March 9, 2013
CARBONDALE, Ill. – Southern Illinois completed a series sweep of Northern Illinois with a pair of come-from-behind wins to take both ends of a doubleheader by scores of 3-2 and 4-2 Saturday afternoon at Abe Martin Field. Jake Welch drove in the go-ahead run in both games for the Salukis (8-6), who held a lead over Northern Illinois (2-13) at the start of only four innings in the entire three-game series.
“I’d like to score some runs early and make it a little less stressful,” SIU Coach Ken Henderson said, “but we battled. We continued to play hard and find a way to win. “
In the first game, Welch fouled off three two-strike pitches before he hit a walk-off sacrifice fly with the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth inning to give SIU the win. The game winner came two batters after Brock Harding tied the contest at 3-3 with an RBI double.
“I was excited when (Welch) got to the plate in that situation,” Henderson said. “I was confident that the game was going to be over and he’d find a way to get that run in.”
It was SIU’s first walk-off win since Welch scored the game-winning run in the 10th inning of SIU’s second-round Missouri Valley Conference Tournament win over Bradley last spring.
“I just made up my mind that I wasn’t going to strike out lunging forward,” Welch said of Saturday’s at-bat. “If he was going to beat me, it was going to be me putting a good swing on it and staying back. Luckily he threw me a fastball and I was able to time it up.”
Cody Daily jumpstarted the rally when he fouled a pitch off his ankle but stayed in the game to deliver a one-out single. He joked about the at-bat afterwards.
Matt Murphy earned his first win of the season in the first game. He threw a scoreless eighth and ninth inning. The only blemish against him was a leadoff infield single in the top of the ninth.
The Salukis’ ninth inning dramatics spoiled an impressive outing for NIU starter Alex Klonowski, who was two outs away from a complete game victory. Prior to the ninth inning, SIU had managed just one run off seven hits against Alex Klonowski. With the loss he fell to 1-3 on the season.
Klonowski was set up to be the hero of the game. In addition to entering the ninth in position to be the winning pitcher, he drove in a run in the fifth inning when he beat out a potential double play to give Northern a 2-1 advantage.
SIU had tied the game at 1-1 in the bottom of the fourth when Austin Montgomery led off the inning with a double over the left fielder’s head and scored on Daily’s RBI single. A doubled play ended the hope for a big inning.
Starter Sam Coonrod kept the Salukis within striking distance with a tremendous outing that was overshadowed by the exciting finish. He limited the Huskies to two runs, only one of them earned, off four hits in seven innings of work. The sophomore managed the longest outing of his career despite struggling to retire the first batters in the early innings.
“It was frustrating because in four of the first five they had the leadoff guy on,” Henderson said, “but he did a great job. We kept telling him you can’t let the leadoff guy get on. That’s something he has to work on, but he had good stuff today and did a good job.”
It was the longest outing of Coonrod's career, and for the third time in four starts this year, he matched his career high with seven strikeouts. He also retired the last eight batters he faced.
After waiting until the eighth inning or later to score the winning run in the first two games of the series, SIU struck relatively early with a three-run sixth inning to lift the Salukis to a 4-2 win in the day's finale. The bullpen helped secure the victory.
Trailing 1-0, Austin Montgomery led off the inning with a walk. After Cody Daily bunted him to second base, Ryan Casillas drove home Montgomery to tie the game at 1-1. Then with two outs, Luke Mottashed gave SIU a 2-1 lead when he hit a fly to right field. Fighting the wind, NIU right fielder Connor Schomig did not get to the ball, which landed for a double.
Rennie Troggio extended the sixth inning with a walk to forced starter Eli Anderson out of the game. Facing left-handed reliever Ben Neuman, Welch lined a single up the middle to score Mottashed and extend the lead to 3-1. That insurance run proved to be the difference in the game.
“He was throwing me a lot of curveballs, trying to get me out on my front foot,” Welch said. “He tried to come in with a fastball again, and I was able to keep my hands inside.”
SIU manufactured another run to push the lead to 4-1 in the seventh inning when Matt Jones drew a walk and scored on Donny Duschinsky’s pinch hit single up the middle.
With starter Cody Forsythe pitching on short rest due to multiple rescheduled games in the last week, Southern called on a group effort from the bullpen. In the game, the six Saluki relievers threw six innings and allowed just one run, which was unearned, off of three hits.
“(Forsythe) battled, but he just wasn’t as fresh as he needed to be,” Henderson said. “We got him out of there because it’s not worth any risk.”
Forsythe lasted three innings, holding the Huskies to one run off four hits. He showed his ability to escape danger, which set the tone for the game. Forsythe stranded five runners in his three innings of work. Four of those runners were in scoring position. NIU left 14 runners on the base paths in the game, and 10 of those were left in scoring position.
Aaron Snyder earned the win to even his season record at 2-2. He tossed a scoreless, hitless sixth inning.
After Jacob Williams ran into trouble with a couple walks in the eighth inning, Lee Weld and Todd Eaton steered the Salukis safely to a win. Eaton threw a perfect ninth inning to earn his second save in as many opportunities this season.
With the win, SIU is off to a 4-1 start at home for the second year in a row. The Salukis also finished their first series sweep of the season after failing to finish the sweep in the last two weekend series.
“It is big,” Henderson said. “We talked about finishing games, and we talked about finishing series because we haven’t done that. When we get teams down, we have to put them away. Today we did that. The demeanor was the same in Game 3 as it was in Game 1 and Game 2.”