April 2, 2010
By Jason Clay
CARBONDALE, Ill. - The Southern Illinois baseball team trailed 4-0 entering the bottom of the eighth, came back to tie the game in the ninth, and then outlasted Bradley as they dropped the Braves, 5-4, in the 15th inning of Friday's game at Abe Martin Field.
Freshman designated hitter Brock Harding's single to left field scored fellow freshman Nick Johnson from second base in the 15th to give the Salukis the win. It didn't come easy for Harding, as his hit came on the 10th pitch of the at-bat after he fouled off five.
"I kept fighting pitches off to get one to do something with. He gave me a fastball on the outside corner and I put a good swing on it," Harding said of his game-winning hit. "I think that was the longest game I've ever been in. Our pitching did a great job of holding them all the extra innings without giving up a single run."
Southern Illinois has now won eight-straight extra inning games going back to 2008 and are 3-0 this year. The third-straight victory improves its record to 12-14 overall and 2-2 in the Missouri Valley Conference. Bradley falls to 6-14 overall and 0-4 in the MVC.
The Salukis strained just getting the game into extra innings. SIU needed to score three runs in the bottom of the eighth and one in the ninth to extend the game, as its offense struggled early on.
Bradley starting pitcher Patrick Cooper only allowed three hits through the first seven innings, and the Dawgs were happy to see the Braves go to the bullpen after Cooper walked the leadoff batter in the eighth.
"We did a great job in the eighth and ninth as far as coming back," head coach Dan Callahan said. "Cooper did a great job and just kept us off balance all day."
Southern Illinois' bullpen should get the credit for winning the game, as the Salukis used five pitchers on Friday. Jimmy Cornell, Bryant George and Kellen Candau combined to provide nine innings of scoreless relief and only allowed three hits.
George threw much of that, as he did not give up a single hit in his 4.1 innings of work. Candau (2-0) picked up the win while Bradley reliever Andy Johnson (0-3) drew the loss after serving up the game-winning hit to Harding.
"There was just something about it and I just knew we were going to win," George said. "We knew (the offense) would come through for us and pick back up like they did in the beginning of the year."
Bradley had an ideal situation in the 12th to go ahead, but SIU got out of a jam. An error to start the inning put one man on and then a walk and a sacrifice had BU runners on second and third with one out. George intentionally walked Mike Tauchman to load the bases.
The move paid off and George got a force out at home before striking out Jordan Colvin to end the inning.
Johnson and senior shortstop Michael Stalter led the Saluki offense that was quiet for much of the game. Johnson extended his hitting streak to eight games, as he was 3-for-7 at the plate to go with his one run that won the game.
Stalter had three hits in six at-bats, and drove in the final run with two outs in the eighth that pulled SIU within one. The Salukis as a team finished with 12 hits and Bradley had 13, 10 of which came in the first six innings.
Chris Serritella's drove in the first two runs of the game in the eighth for SIU with his double that hit the base of the wall in right center and Chris Murphy's double to left center in the ninth scored Tony Lepore to send the game into extra innings.
After playing the four-hour, four-minute game Friday, the two teams return to the field for game two of the series on Saturday at 2 p.m.