Pitching was mostly optional for the baseball Salukis in last weekend's three-game series with the University of California-Irvine.
SIU clinched the second game of the three last Sunday in less-than-ideal conditions. In fact, the temperatures hovered in the low 50s, and near-monsoons abounded for the three days of this series. Also abounding were hits from both teams, but the Dawgs had more clutch ones to edge the the Anteaters two wins to one.
"I'm proud of our guys," SIU head coach Ken Henderson said. "We competed and played hard in really dreary conditions."
Yes, it was dreary, but not when it came to the Dawgs' offense. SIU got nipped in the only one of the three contests that had a semblance of good college pitching. In the Anteaters' 6-2 win Friday, Saluki hurdlers gave up nine hits, but the Anteaters only gave the Dawgs seven.
Henderson has resigned himself to the reality that shutouts by his team's starters will be rare as this spring season progresses.
"We can't win games with just four or five guys hitting," Henderson said. "We have to hit up and down the line-up."
And the Dawgs' Saturday second game bore that theory out as they got six hits in total from the seven, eight and nine line-up players. Thus, SIU pounded out 14 hits for the 11-2 win. SIU's relief pitchers finished the game, and only gave up five of the Anteaters' 32 series hits. Irvine also helped out the Dawgs by committing five big errors in their loss.
By the third game Sunday (a 10-8 win by SIU), all pretense that pitching was in control of this series was gone. In that win, the Salukis started out on top from the get-go. The Dawgs jumped to a 1-0 first-inning advantage and added one more on on a Logan
Blackfan single to center field to score Addison Fugitt (2-0 SIU lead).
Irvine came back and moved ahead of the Dawgs 3-2 with two singles in the top of the third inning, but SIU went ahead for good in the bottom of that inning.
A Grey Epps single brought in teammates Alex Lyons and Logan Blackfan, and then Brad Harrison's single made it 5-3. Finally, Nikola Vasic's single made it 6-3 SIU.
The Anteater bats never stopped, though. They scored one in the fourth inning, three in the fifth and finally one in the seventh. However, SIU's bats followed suit as they also scored four more total runs in the same innings to account for a 10-8 final score last Sunday.
That third game win was not exactly a pitching coach's dream. But Henderson was philosophical and optimistic after the Dawgs won the series.
"The two wins (Saturday and Sunday) are big wins after a tough loss last Friday," Henderson said. "They were big bounce-back wins for sure."
The Dawgs' next opponent is Illinois State this Friday through Sunday in Normal. The Redbirds were picked fifth preseason in the 10-team MVC and have been playing like it. ISU is 8-11 after dropping two games to former MVC power Creighton (now playing in the AAC).
Hopefully the weather and the Dawgs' starting pitching will be better for that series.
First pitch is at 4:30 p.m. Friday afternoon.