SIU's bullpen threw five scoreless innings in the victory.
March 13, 2013
MURFREESBORO, Tenn. – Southern Illinois held onto an early lead for a 4-2 win over Middle Tennessee State Wednesday afternoon at Reese Smith Jr. Field. With the win, the Salukis (9-7) split the two-game series and broke a streak of seven consecutive losses at Middle Tennessee (11-6).
“It’s a great win,” SIU Coach Ken Henderson said. “To play as well as we did yesterday and lose a great ballgame, then come back today and gut one out, I’m awfully proud of our kids.”
SIU built a 3-2 lead after the third inning and shut down the Blue Raiders the rest of the way. Southern Illinois’ bullpen tossed five scoreless innings to extend its streak to 18 consecutive innings without allowing an earned run.
“That’s the story of the game,” SIU Coach Ken Henderson said. “To hold a very good ballclub scoreless over the last five innings with a one-run lead is a very good effort on the bullpen’s part.”
Freshman Anthony Shimkus recorded his first collegiate win for the Salukis. He started the fifth inning with SIU in front 3-2 and allowed just one hit in two scoreless innings.
“I’m extremely proud of Shimkus,” Henderson said. “He came in, and we made our only error. The next guy hit a little flare, and he pitched out of first and second and nobody out. For a freshman to do that in this environment is huge.”
Cooper allowed three runs in three innings of work and took the loss to fall to 1-1.
Southern Illinois had countless opportunities to extend their early lead against the five relievers MTSU used. The Salukis drew a season-high 10 walks and three hit batsmen but stranded 15 runners. They loaded the bases in five innings, and only scored in two of those frames. The Dawgs twice loaded the bases with no one out and failed to score. Headed to the ninth, SIU had only recorded four hits.
“It was a frustrating day in one sense,” Henderson said. “Not only could we not get the key hit, but we couldn’t put the ball in play. We had 15 guys on base so we weren’t bad on offense. We just couldn’t pick somebody up once we got them there.”
SIU finally got an insurance run home in the top of the ninth inning when the Salukis loaded the bases for the fifth time in the game and Nick Johnson hit a sacrifice fly to shallow left field. It came one pitch after Johnson appeared to be hit by a pitch in the toe.
Brad Drust made his first start of the season for the Salukis. He allowed two runs off four hits in four innings of work. After allowing the leadoff man aboard in the second and third innings, he limited the Blue Raiders to a single run in each inning. Drust walked in a run with the bases loaded in the second inning, but got out of the inning without any further damage.
“Brad did a good job in getting us four innings,” Henderson said. “It was his first start, and we didn’t know how much we were going to get out of him. He did a good job.”
After splitting with MTSU, SIU will look ahead to five games in five days starting with a four-game series with Illinois on Friday.
“This is a big stretch for us in not only trying to get some wins and some momentum, but trying to find out what kind of club we are,” Henderson said. “We saw better pitching the last two days than we’ve seen all year. We need to see good arms and make some adjustments to that, so to go 1-1 here, that’s a pretty good two-day series.”