Connor Kopach recorded a career-high four hits in the game.
May 2, 2014
CARBONDALE, Ill. – Two highly touted draft prospects provided a hard-fought pitchers duel as Evansville edged Southern Illinois 4-2 in 11 innings Friday night at Itchy Jones Stadium. SIU (21-25, 3-13) was down to its last strike in the ninth inning and battled back to send it to extra innings against the Purple Aces (29-15, 10-3 MVC). The Salukis have now lost five in a row, matching their longest losing streak of the season. Three of those losses have lasted 11 innings or longer.
“We pitched extremely well,” SIU Coach Ken Henderson said. “We played great defense. We just didn’t find a way to get a run when we needed to, but it was a great college baseball game.”
With the score tied 2-2 after 10 innings, Evansville plated a pair of runs in the top of the 11th with four-consecutive singles against reliever Lee Weld. That gave the senior his first loss of the season.
Weld pitched a scoreless 10th inning and struck out Jarod Perry to start the 11th. Then Josh Jyawook and Jake Mahon hit back-to-back singles. Kevin Kaczmarski singled up the middle to score Jyawook, and Kyle Pollock drove in Mahon with a single to left, stretching the lead to 4-2.
The Salukis did not go quietly in the bottom of the 11th. Will Farmer led off with a single, and Parker Osborne drew a two-out walk to put the tying run on base before Sam Johns struck out Jake Welch to end the game.
SIU nearly got the bounce it needed to win in the bottom of the 10th. Cody Daily led off the inning with a double and moved to third on Jake Hand’s sac bunt. With two outs and Will Farmer at the plate, one of Johns’ pitches hit the turf and skipped away from catcher Kyle Pollock in the direction of the first base dugout. Daily made a dash for home, but Pollock was able to gather the ball and toss it to Johns in the nick of time to end the inning.
“The ball skips away, and it’s a close play at the plate,” Henderson said. “It’s the winning run. I’d send him 100 percent of the time on that. As soon as it skips away, you have to take that chance.”
Kyle Freeland, one of the most dominant pitchers in college baseball, was one strike away from recording his second complete game victory of the season. Welch denied him when Welch drove a 1-2 pitch into center field for an RBI single to drive in Connor Kopach from second base and knot the game at 2-2. The inning ended with Freeland’s ninth strikeout of the game with two runners on base.
“We got a key hit,” Henderson said. “That was the difference (in the ninth). Jake Welch stepped up and got a crucial hit, and we found a way to score. (Freeland)’s one of the best in the country, but I thought we were good on offense all night. Sometimes you find a way to get the key hits, and sometimes you don’t.”
The Salukis touched up Freeland for 11 hits, the most he has allowed this season. However, SIU could only push across two runs against him as the Salukis stranded 11 runners in the first nine innings of the game. Freeland struck out nine and walked one, giving him 106 punchouts compared to seven walks on the season.
“I thought our hitters were good all night,” Henderson said. “If you get two or three runs off a guy like that, you give yourself a chance. You’re not going to get five or six against him.”
Sam Coonrod matched Freeland through the middle innings. The Saluki junior retired the first nine hitters he faced and 11 of the first 12 before surrendering a two-out single in the fourth. Coonrod allowed three hits and no runs in his first six innings of work.
He worked out of multiple jams in the middle innings. In each of the middle frames, he allowed a walk but got out of the inning with a runner left at second base.
“My mindset was that (Freeland is) a very good pitcher, so to give us a chance to win, I was either going to allow no runs or one run,” Coonrod said. “(Pitching) coach (P.J. Finigan) just told me to slow down and let everything come to me.”
After surrendering a double and walk to start the seventh, Coonrod left the game with SIU holding a 1-0 lead with one out and and two runners in scoring position.
“I used the fastball well in and out,” Coonrod said. “A couple hits that I gave up were fastballs down the middle, but they did a good job of battling.”
Kyle Pauly allowed a game-tying single but then struck out Mahon and Kaczmarski to end the inning.
Kyle Pollock gave the Aces a 2-1 lead when he hit Pauly’s first pitch of the eighth inning over the right field wall to break the 1-1 tie.
SIU took a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the fourth inning with Kopach’s RBI triple to left-center field. That drove in Dyllin Mucha, who beat out a two-out single with a chopper to the right side of the infield. Kopach finished the game with a career-high four hits in six at-bats.
“He had a great game,” Henderson said. “He’s always had a decent swing. He’s been working hard to stay back and not going to get the ball. He did a great job.”
The Salukis will try to even the series on Saturday when Todd Eaton takes the mound for a 4 p.m. game at Itchy Jones Stadium.