May 15, 2012
By Scott Gierman
SAUGET, Ill. – An early seven-run deficit was too much for SIU to overcome in an 8-5 loss to Saint Louis Tuesday night at GCS Ballpark. Saint Louis (38-15) took control of the game with a five-run fourth inning to open up a 6-1 lead on the Salukis (25-2) lead then added two more in the sixth to make it 8-1. The loss marked the first time in seven games at GCS Ballpark that SIU has lost to SLU.
Alex Kelly led off the top of the fourth inning for SLU with a home run to left field, which put the Billikens in front, 2-1. Grant Nelson followed with a single, and Aaron Snyder departed the game after three-plus innings of work. Matt Murphy entered and issued back-to-back walks followed by three straight bases loaded RBI singles to give SLU a 5-1 lead.
“Our bullpen wasn’t very good,” SIU Coach Ken Henderson said. “Matt Murphy didn’t give us much of a chance by walking two guys in a crucial situation and then giving up three straight hits. That was the difference in the game.”
Lee Weld replaced Murphy with still no outs in the inning. Weld was able to put a tourniquet on the rally with a sac fly and an inning ending double play.
Weld tossed a scoreless fifth inning and retired the first two batters of the sixth inning. However, he issued a walk to Mike Levine, hit Jerry Mancuso and was replaced by Pete Slavonic. Slavonic allowed consecutive hits to Kelly and Nelson to extend the Billikens’ lead to 8-1.
Zack Smith earned the win for SLU. He held the Salukis to one unearned run off two hits in five innings of work to improve his record to 3-0 on the year. He issued three walks and struck out four. After SIU’s first inning run, Smith did not allow a runner past second base.
“Aaron Snyder did a good job,” Henderson said. “He left a 2-1 game, but we just weren’t good in the bullpen.”
SIU’s bats came to life immediately after Smith departed. Down 8-1 to start the bottom of the sixth inning, the Salukis battled back with four runs against reliever Derek Mazzio. After the first two runners reached base, Jordan Sivertsen drove home Chris Serritella with an RBI double to cut it to 8-2. Brock Harding followed with a sac fly to score Austin Montgomery. Brian Bajer then singled to score Sivertsen and cut it to 8-4. Mazzio was lifted with just one out in the inning.
Mazzio’s replacement, Jim Foster, allowed back-to-back walks to load the bases and then walked Jake Welch to cut the Billikens lead to 8-5. SIU still had the bases loaded with the go-ahead run at the plate when Chris Serritella hit a hard ground ball to the right side. SLU had the infield shifted and deep to make the play and end the rally.
“We had the right guy up with Chris, and he smoked that ball,” Henderson said, “but it’s on turf, and they were playing him over and were able to make the play.”
Both offenses went quiet in the late innings. Rennie Troggio’s infield single was the only hit for either team in the final three frames.
Each team used five pitchers in the game. SIU’s last two men out of the pen, Tyler Dray and Todd Eaton, combined for two and a third innings without surrendering a hit, but SIU could not get anything going offensively.
Both teams scored an unearned run in the first inning.
The Salukis have dropped seven in a row and will look to bounce back on Thursday when they open a three-game series at home against IPFW. It will be the final regular season series for SIU before beginning the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament on Tuesday, May 22. First pitch on Thursday is scheduled for 3 p.m. at Abe Martin Field.