Connor Kopach had two hits in his first collegiate start at shortstop.
March 29, 2014
CARBONDALE, Ill – Southern Illinois batted around and rallied for five runs in the 11th inning and claim a 9-5 win over Missouri State Saturday afternoon at Hammons Field. With the win, SIU (13-11, 0-1 MVC) evened the series with MSU (11-13, 2-2 MVC) at a game apiece.
In the 11th inning, Parker Osborne broke a 4-4 tie when he laced a single against a drawn in infield to score Will Farmer from third base. Farmer reached on a throwing error by MSU third baseman Dylan Becker.
“I was just looking for something up that I could drive,” Osborne said. “I made an adjustment from my previous at-bats and ended up smoking one up the middle. It was one of those games that you’re just waiting for something to go your way, so it was nice for that to happen.”
After Cody Daily drew a walk, Ryan Casillas extended the lead to 6-4 with a single to right field. Following a groundout, Tyler Rolland hit a two-run single up the middle to score Daily and Casillas. Rolland scored the fifth and final run of the inning on Matt Jones’ double down the left field line to make it a 9-4 lead.
“I think we had more quality ABs with runners in scoring position than we have had in a long time,” SIU Coach Ken Henderson said. “In the 11th, we had some guys hit some balls hard and use the whole yard.”
Working with a five-run cushion, SIU closer Tyler Dray allowed one run off two walks and two hits in the bottom half of the 11th inning. He managed to escape when Tyler Harris hit a bases-loaded ground ball to Farmer, who stepped on the third base bag to end the game.
The freshman reliever was one of many first-year Salukis to step up in the game. With senior shortstop Jake Welch under the weather and unable to play, SIU started four freshmen in the lineup.
Connor Kopach stepped in for Welch at shortstop and went 2 for 4 with a walk and a crucial sacrifice bunt to set up Osborne’s go-ahead hit in the 11th. Farmer, also a freshman, made his first conference start at third base and recorded two hits in five at-bats. Henderson was impressed with the production from the freshmen.
“I’m extremely proud of those guys,” Henderson said of Farmer and Kopach. “Their defense was outstanding, and both had good days at the plate, but I’m not surprised. I’ve said all along that they’re extremely talented. As much as we want Jake Welch in the lineup, I knew our freshmen would do a good job.”
SIU took a 4-3 lead in the top of the eighth when Matt Jones hit a pinch hit double just inside the right field line to score Ryan Casillas from first base. However, the Salukis couldn’t add to the lead and stranded two runners in scoring position.
Missouri State quickly tied the game back up when Tate Matheny led off the Bears half of the eighth with a home run to knot the score at 4-4. That chased Saluki starter Todd Eaton from the game.
Eaton allowed four runs off six hits in seven-plus innings of work and took a no-decision. It was the second game in a row in which the last batter he faced hit a game-tying home run. Eaton matched a career-best with his second six-strikeout performance of the season.
“Similar to Sam Coonrod last night, that was probably his best outing of the year.” Henderson said. “I think he had great command of all his pitches. He was down in the zone and threw very well.”
After a tough loss in the series opener, SIU jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the first inning of Saturday’s game when Casillas hit an RBI single through the left side of the infield. It scored Daily who had reached on an infield single and advanced to second on third baseman Dylan Becker’s errant throw to first base.
Casillas extended SIU’s lead to 2-0 with an opposite field solo home run in the top of the third. He had three RBIs in the contest.
“I’m not surprised we came back and played hard,” Henderson said. “We’ve done that all year. Our effort and intensity have been good all year. I knew we’d come out and play hard.”
Missouri State rallied for three runs to take a 3-2 lead in the bottom of the fourth inning. Tate Matheny and Matt Fultz led off the inning with a pair of singles to right field. Eric Cheray then hit a flyball to center field, but Osborne lost it in the sun to load the bases.
Eaton hit Conor Smith to force in the Bears’ first run. Aaron Meyer and Joey Hawkins followed with a pair of sacrifice flies to tie the game and then give MSU the lead.
The Salukis will try for their third straight series win when Aaron Hauge takes the mound for Sunday’s finale. First pitch is scheduled for 1:05 p.m.