March 28, 2012
By Scott Gierman
CARBONDALE, Ill. - Murray State scored five unanswered runs in the final five innings to hand Southern Illinois a 7-2 loss Wednesday afternoon at Abe Martin Field. Poor defense again plagued the Salukis (14-11) who committed three errors, each of which led to an unearned run for Murray State (14-12).
"I thought we were ready, and I thought our demeanor was good before the game," SIU Coach Ken Henderson said, "but we didn't play well, and we're going to have to play better than that, especially midweek."
The Thoroughbreds rallied for two runs with two outs in the top of the fifth inning to take a 4-2 lead. The inning started innocently enough as Matt Murphy, who had already thrown two scoreless innings in relief, retired the first two batters before walking Jacob Rhodes. Cody Larson made him pay with a double to left-center field to score Rhodes. Larson then scored on Dylan Wheeler's single to right field.
Murphy finished the inning with no further damage but was charged with his third loss of the year. He allowed two runs off four hits in three innings of work.
Southern had tied the game at 2-2 on Chris Serritella's two-run homer in the third inning off Kyle Cornett, who was in his first inning of relief. However, Cornett stayed in to pitch three more scoreless innings and earn the win, his second of the year. The home run for Serritella, the 23rd of his career, moved him into the top 10 on the school's all-time career list.
Both starters went two innings, but it was only by design for Murray State. SIU starter Pete Slavonic labored with high pitch counts through the first two innings. He allowed a single run in each of the first two innings, although both of them were unearned. Slavonic was lifted from the game after he gave up a leadoff single to the first batter of the third inning with his 57th pitch of the game.
The Thoroughbreds added an unneeded insurance run in the eighth when Brandon Elliott bunted home Paul Ritzheimer from third base and beat out the ball for a single.
Southern Illinois had chances late but each time failed to capitalize. The Salukis stranded six runners in the final five innings, and grounded into an inning ending double play in both the eighth and ninth innings.
Southern struggled to move runners over all day, 10 times flying or popping out in an at-bat that could've moved a runner over.
"We had too many flyballs, not good ABs, not good approaches at the plate," Henderson said. "We finally started battling in the seventh inning, but it was way too late at that point. We put some good ABs together, but at that point, you can't play that poorly for the first six innings and expect to come back and win."
Joe Major pitched the last three innings for Murray State to earn his first save of the year. The Breds' starter Alex Gordon pitched his two scheduled innings, and did not allow a run off two hits.
Wednesday's game was the last of a 14-game homestand. Southern Illinois will hit the road for a three-game series against MVC foe Wichita State beginning Friday at 6:30 p.m. The Salukis will return home for a three-game series against Evansville starting on Friday, April 6.