Eastern Illinois summoned freshman right-handed pitcher Matt Borens out of the bullpen with one out and the bases loaded in the bottom of the fourth inning Tuesday, and two pitches later Borens walked back to the dugout after retiring the side.
“We worked hard to get into that situation, to get into their bullpen, then the guy (Bornes) throws two pitches and gets two outs,” said coach Ken Henderson. “If you’re going to swing at the
first pitch, then you better barrel it up and not pop it up on the backside of the infield.”
Junior catcher Luke Mottashed hit an easy pop fly to the shortstop on Borens’ first pitch, and junior center fielder Rennie Troggio grounded out to the second baseman on the next pitch to end the inning. The situation ended up being the last chance with runners in scoring position for the Salukis (12-9) on Tuesday as they lost 5-1 to Eastern Illinois (7-11).
Four Saluki errors in the game brought the season total up to 54, the second worst in the NCAA, as four of Eastern’s five runs were unearned.
“We’ve won 12 games averaging four or five errors a game. That’s unacceptable,” Henderson said. “I told them we’re not going to win in the long haul if we keep doing that.”
Henderson held a 20-minute private meeting with his team after their fourth straight loss Tuesday.
“I don’t think we have any leadership right now. We don’t have anybody stepping up right now and saying ‘this is unacceptable,’” Henderson said. “You could say ‘well, we’re on a four-game losing streak and that’s why I’m upset,’ but we haven’t played up to our potential all year.”
Henderson said the team didn’t battle enough during the game, except for junior right fielder Austin Montgomery, who had a 12-pitch at-bat with one out in the eighth inning off of Eastern Illinois junior right-handed pitcher Keith Koser.
“I was just looking for a pitch to hit. (Koser) gave me a couple, I just didn’t hit them very well,” Montgomery said. “It just kept going and going and finally got ahold of one.”
Montgomery was stranded at first after the next two batters hit fly-ball outs to center field.
Saluki sophomore right-handed pitcher Peter Slavonic (1-1) took the loss. He pitched six innings and gave up three runs, one earned on six hits.
Eastern Illinois junior right-handed pitcher Troy Barton (3-1) picked up the victory but only pitched two innings in his fourth start of the season. He gave up one hit, one walk and had two strikeouts.
“Troy’s one of our better arms, but he’s really good out of the pen, so we made that decision where he’ll be in the bullpen this weekend and therefore only two innings today,” Eastern Illinois coach Jim Schmitz said.
Eastern Illinois used five pitchers in relief of Barton, and it combined to give up six hits and one earned run.
“You want guys to feel sharp going into this Friday. If they don’t pitch today, they don’t pitch all week,” Schmitz said.
SIU opens conference play Friday and Saturday against Bradley University at Abe Martin Field.