Cody Daily hit his third home run of a season on Wednesday.
April 30, 2014
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. – Illinois handed Southern Illinois one of its worst losses of the season with a 10-1 defeat Wednesday evening at Illinois Field. Illini outfielder Casey Fletcher hit three home runs and drove in five runs as the two teams wrapped up their season series with both the Salukis (21-24) and Illinois (24-17) claiming two games apiece.
“I thought we were ready to go,” SIU Coach Ken Henderson said. “Obviously, we didn’t play with a lot of energy, and that’s on me. That’s my job to get them ready.”
Illinois put the game out of reach with seven runs in the bottom of the seventh inning. With SIU trailing 4-1, Derek Fogel began the inning on the mound for the Salukis and walked the first two batters of the inning. It was his first outing since leaving a game with an injury 12 days ago at Wichita State.
“Fogel is coming off the injury,” Henderson said. “I felt like we had to get him out there and see, but he didn’t have good command. Those walks are usually going to come back and bite you, but he hadn’t been out there in a while.”
Matt Murphy replaced Fogel and allowed a single to Jason Goldstein to load the bases followed by a two-run single by Reid Roper to make it a 6-1 game. Fletcher capped the big inning with a three-run homer, his third of the day, stretching the lead to 9-1.
SIU had only surrendered three total home runs in a game once this season before Fletcher’s three longballs on Wednesday.
“It’s frustrating,” Henderson said. “They were mistakes and balls he should’ve hit hard. I can live with a good hitter making you pay for a mistake. Those don’t bother me as much as the walks.”
“Getting warm and getting loose in this cold weather just took a while,” McPheron said. “I tried to keep the ball down, but I left it up in the first inning.”
Fletcher extended the lead to 3-0 in the bottom of the third with a home run to left field.
“In the third inning when I gave up that home run, I made one mistake and left it up,” McPheron said. “That hurt me, but I really focused on keeping it down after that.”
After the rocky start, McPheron settled into a rhythm. The freshman allowed three runs in five innings of work with three walks and two strikeouts. Although he was saddled with the loss, he retired the last seven hitters he faced and 11 of the last 12. The only blemish in that stretch was Fletcher’s two-out solo homer in the third.
“Austin McPheron after the first two or three hitters settled in and kept us in the ballgame,” Henderson said. “Credit to him that he settled in. After the first inning, he was pretty good.”
Cody Daily drove in the Salukis’ only run of the game when he led off the fifth inning with his third homer of the season. That cut the deficit to 3-1. Two batters later, Matt Jones hit a one-out double, but he was stranded at second base as the inning came to a close.
“With the hitting conditions the way they were, with the wind blowing out,” Henderson said, “if we got a guy on, which we did a couple times, and had the right guys up, you could hit one to the gap or hit one out. Then it’s a one-run or tie game, so I felt pretty good about it at that point.”
However the Saluki offense managed only one hit after the fifth inning and Illinois outscored SIU 7-0 in the final four innings. The four total hits matched a season-low for SIU.
Illinois declared a staff day and utilized five pitchers in the game. Starter Rob McDonnell picked up the win as he held SIU to one hit in three innings of work. His four strikeouts all came against the first five hitters of the game.
SIU has now dropped its last nine road games. This weekend the Salukis will return home to Itchy Jones Stadium, where they have won their last three, as SIU begins a three-game series against Missouri Valley Conference leader Evansville on Friday at 6:30 p.m.