March 23, 2012
By Scott Gierman
CARBONDALE, Ill. – Jordan Sivertsen picked a good time for his first home run of the season. His two-run eighth inning homer gave the Salukis their first lead of the game, lifting SIU (13-9, 1-0) to a 6-5 win over Bradley (10-8-1) Friday afternoon at Abe Martin Field.
Cody Forsythe took home his much-deserved first win of the year as SIU started the Missouri Valley season on the right foot and snapped a four-game losing streak.
Forsythe allowed four runs in the first two innings but settled in to pitch eight innings and record a career-high 11 strikeouts. He allowed one unearned run off three hits in his final six innings of work.
“He just competed his rear end off,” SIU Coach Ken Henderson said. “In the first inning he walked the leadoff batter. We booted a ball behind him, and all of a sudden, he’s down 3-0 against a very good pitcher. To go back out for the next seven innings and compete like he did is the effort of a guy with great makeup who wants the ball. Even when it was 3-0, you could tell he was ready to go. He’s not a guy who is going to get down about that.”
Despite his efforts, it appeared Forsythe would again be denied a win when Bradley eeked out a run in the sixth thanks to two Saluki errors and a bunt single. The run gave the Braves a 5-4 advantage.
The Salukis ace had a 0-1 record and four no-decisions entering the game, despite thrice leaving the game with a lead.
“This has been the toughest win of my life,” Forsythe joked, “but it was big time for us to win this game today. We started off our confidence right and hopefully can keep it going for the rest of the weekend and the rest of the season.”
Bradley starter Joe Bircher dropped his record to 3-1 in his roughest outing of the year. He allowed six runs off eight hits in seven innings of work. Bircher had pitched well against SIU in the past, including a two-hit shutout in Peoria in 2011.
“We knew he was going to be around the zone,” Henderson said. “He doesn’t walk people. We were aggressive and got some good hacks against him. It was just a good day by our offense. We were competing hard.”
The Braves jumped on Forsythe in the first inning when Austin Jarvis hit a one-out double to score Chris Godinez. Jarvis scored on Max Murphy’s RBI single to extend the early lead to 2-0. Greg Partyka reached on an error and also scored in the inning to give Bradley a 3-0 advantage before the Salukis first at-bat.
SIU responded in the bottom of the first inning with Chris Serritella’s fifth home run of a season, a blast over the centerfield wall. It was the Salukis first three-home run game of 2012.
“We got the win because in the dugout, everybody acted like we were on a 10-game winning streak,” Henderson said. “Nobody was down when we were down 3-0 and 4-1. We kept competing and kept believing, and that was probably the difference.”
The three-game series will continue Saturday at Abe Martin Field with the first pitch scheduled for 2 p.m. Cameron Maldonado will make the start for SIU.