Homers cost Salukis in 7-4 loss to Bradley

    Ryan Casillas hit his team-leading fourth home run of the season.

    Ryan Casillas hit his team-leading fourth home run of the season.
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    April 4, 2014

    By Scott Gierman

    Box Score | Photo Gallery

    CARBONDALE, Ill. – Bradley hit a pair of three-run home runs to beat Southern Illinois 7-4 and spoil the first night game at Itchy Jones Stadium in front of a crowd of 780 fans Friday night. With the loss, the Salukis (16-13, 1-3 MVC) have lost six consecutive series openers despite winning four of their last five series.

    With the wind blowing out, the Salukis were unable to avoid mistakes that set up the two three-run homers.

    “The fact that they were three-run shots is what was big,” SIU Coach Ken Henderson said. “In the first inning, we made an error to allow a baserunner. That changed the whole complexion of the inning. Then in the seventh inning, we walked a guy and hit a guy, and it’s a three-run homer instead of a solo shot.”

    Southern Illinois held a 4-3 lead in the seventh inning before surrendering four late runs. The Braves (16-9, 2-5 MVC) took a 6-4 lead when Max Murphy hit a three-run homer in the top of the seventh. Murphy was the first batter to face reliever Lee Weld.

    Starter Sam Coonrod walked Spencer Gaa to start the inning. After a sacrifice bunt, Coonrod hit Chris Godinez with a pitch and was lifted from the game.

    Coonrod took the loss to fall to 0-4 on the season. He was charged with six runs, five of them earned, and struck out five in six and a third innings of work. After surrendering a three-run home run to Greg Partyka in the first inning, Coonrod did not allow another run until leaving the game in the seventh.

    “I thought Sam did a good job,” Henderson said. “We had a 4-3 lead in the seventh inning against one of the better offensive clubs in the league. I thought we pitched well and gave ourselves a chance to win, but we didn’t execute down the stretch.”

    The Salukis had battled back from the early 3-0 hole to take a 4-3 lead in the bottom of the sixth inning. Tyler Rolland drew a one-out walk in the inning, advanced to second base on a wild pitch and scored on freshman Dyllin Mucha’s two-out single up the middle. It was Mucha’s third hit of the game.

    “He’s doing what he’s capable of doing,” Henderson said of Mucha. “He’s putting a bat on it, and good things are happening. I’m proud of him. He’s made some unbelievable strides in the last few weeks.”

    SIU tied the game at 3-3 in the bottom of the third inning when Ryan Casillas hit his fourth home run of the season. It came immediately after Cody Daily hit his first of three singles on the day.

    “It felt good to get a couple runs for us and get the momentum going our way,” Casillas said. “The ball was flying tonight. We saw that in the first inning with (Partyka).”

    Despite surrendering all four of the Salukis’ runs, Braves starter Elliot Ashbeck took home the win to improve his perfect record to 5-0. He struck out six and walked one in six and two-thirds innings.

    Southern could not get anything going against the Bradley bullpen. Sean Safko pitched a scoreless inning and a third. Closer Matt Dennis picked up his first save with a scoreless ninth after hitting Mucha with a pitch to start the inning.

    Henderson pointed to a few costly mistakes that made the difference in the ballgame. Included were a pair of errors, both of which led directly to runs.

    “On Friday’s, you have to make other teams earn things, especially good offensive clubs,” Henderson said. “You take away the two errors and the walk and the hit batter (in the seventh inning), and that’s four runs right there that all scored.”

    Despite the loss, Henderson said the large, loud crowd in an intimate setting made for one the best atmospheres he’s experienced at a Saluki home game.

    “(The atmosphere) was phenomenal,” Henderson said. “We’ve had some big games over the years, but this atmosphere, this crowd is as good as I can remember, and I’ve been here 24 years. The stadium is perfect. It was full. It was loud. Big kudos to all the Saluki fans who came out and made it a great experience. I don’t know of anywhere we play in the league that has a better atmosphere than what we had here tonight.”

    The Salukis will try to even the series on Saturday with the first pitch set for 2 p.m. Todd Eaton will take the mound for SIU.