Weekend preview: Southern Illinois

Gamecock Anthem baseball analyst John Klauber breaks down the Gamecocks' opponent this weekend, Southern Illinois. Look inside for an in-depth preview of this weekend's series.

Southern Illinois University "Salukis"
Member: Missouri Valley Conference
Record: Overall 2-2 ('10: 28-29); Home 0-0 ('10:18-9); Away 0-2 ('10: 10-16); Neutral 2-0 ('10: 0-4); MVC 0-0 (10-10).

Not the first time our two teams have met… one particular epic meeting took place in Omaha in 1977. We had to eliminate Southern Illinois-Carbondale to play Arizona State to get into the Championship game. We beat them 5-4, remained undefeated going into the Championship game. It was Randy Martz working his magic on the bump from a short 4-day rest to beat the Salukis. We met them again in 1984, during our Independent days. We had a weekend series with Miami in Coral Gables and stayed over an extra night to play a Monday game against the Salukis. We beat them in Coral Gables by a score of 12-6.

The Passing of a Legend… Coach Dan Callahan, longtime coach for Southern Illinois, passed away on November 15, 2010 from a bout with skin cancer (neurotropic melanoma, a rare skin cancer disorder). He was the Saluki skipper for 16 years. His longtime assistant, Ken Henderson (coached at SIU for 21 years) is serving as interim coach. Condolences go out to Coach Callahan's staff, players and Saluki family for his passing.

Pecking order… The Missouri Valley Conference baseball coaches released their picks for this year's MVC teams. Illinois State was picked as the #1 team followed by Wichita State and Evansville. Southern Illinois comes in at #7 out of 8 teams. First baseman Chris Serritella (L-R, Jr.) of SIU was selected as a member of the MVC All-Conference team. However, Serritella has not shown up in a box score over the past four games. The Saluki first base position has been filled by Sophomore Austin Montgomery.

Bad break for Mr. Serritella… The Salukis biggest offensive weapon will be sidelined for some time with a broken hand. Many Gamecock fans will understand he pain this must be for Saluki fans as we were dealt a similar misfortunes with Jackie Bradley Jr. and his broken hand. Like Bradley Jr., Chris was a major part of their offense last year (.374BA, 192AB, 83h, 64RBI, 13HR). His bat will be sorely missed in Columbia. With him in there, it would have an effect on how this Saluki team would play and how they will hit against our lefties on the mound, as Serritella is their best, most experienced left-handed batter. He is also their inspiration and quite a backstop at 1st base when playing it.

Southern Illinois returns five starters and 14 letter winners from its 2010 squad that won 28 contests. The Salukis return their top four hitters from last year's squad that hit a collective .308. Other big hitters include Chris Murphy, Austin Montgomery, Nick Johnson and Catcher Brian Bajer. Their hitting numbers from last year and hitting numbers for starting freshmen are included below. Percentages and numbers for SIU hitters reflect present season numbers and 2010 numbers (in parenthesis), when applicable:

#2 Chris Murphy, CF (L/R, Sr.); .389(.320)BA, 18(225)AB, 1(47)r, 7(72)h, (1)HR, 4(31)RBI, (18)w, (28)k (.421 [.457] obp).

19 Donny Duschinsky, 3B (R/R, Fr.); .200BA, 15AB, 3r, 3h, 3w, 1k (.333 obp).

15 Austin Montgomery, 1B (R/R, So.); .250(.319)BA, 12(135)AB, 1(22)r, 3(43)h, (3)HR, 1(27)RBI, 1(13)w, 1(30)k (.357 [.387] obp).

10 Brock Harding, 2B (L/R, So.); .154(.287)BA, 13(135)AB, 2(17)r, 2(33)h, (19) RBI, (10)w, 1(14)k, (.154 [.344] obp).

32 Kollin Dowdy, RF (R/R, Fr.); .400BA, 15AB, 2r, 6h, 2RBI, 1k (.438 obp).

28 Nick Johnson, LF (L/L, So.); .091(.309)BA, 11(191)AB, (37)r, 1(59)h, (2)HR, 1(22)RBI, 2(16)w, 2(35)k, (.231 [.376] obp).

4 Jordan Sivertson, DH (R/R, Jr.); .375(.207)BA, 16(116)AB, 1(26)r, 6(24)h, (4)HR, 2(15)RBI, 1(15)w, 2(37)k (.412 [.306] obp).

8 Brian Bajer, C (R/R, RS-Jr.); .364(.344)BA, 11(93)AB, 4(17)r, 4(32)h, (4)HR, 1(20)RBI, 2(10)w, 1(23)k (.400 [.408] obp).

7 Jake Welch, SS (L/R, Fr.); .250BA, 16AB, 4h, 1w, 2k (.294 obp).



17 Blake Pinnon, inf (R/R, RS-Sr.) .333(.333)BA, 6(210)AB, 2(49)r, 2(70)h, (8)HR, 1(45)RBI, 2(24)w, 1(36)k (.500 [.405] obp).
26 Dustin Huff, C (R/R, RS-Jr.) .000BA, 3AB, 1w, 1k, (.250 obp).

9 Wes Neece, inf (L/R, So.) .333(.190)BA, 3(21)AB, (5)r, 1(4)h, 1RBI, (5)w, (7)k (.333 [.370] obp).

TOTALS: (SIU) .310 (.308) BA
(OPP) .245 (.326) BA

Pitching. Saluki pitching for weekend starts features a sophomore, a transfer junior and a true freshman. Friday starter, Cameron Maldonado (RHP, R.S.-Jr Seward C.C.) comes in after dropping a tough decision against Louisiana Tech last weekend. Maldonado pounded the strike zone against La. Tech and left Saluki relievers with a 2 run deficit to work with, but the relief could not give Saluki offense a chance to catch up.. Maldonado has very good arm strength and is a physical presence on the mound. SIU is his third college stop… he started out at Wichita State his freshman year, left to attend Seward Com. College (Liberal, Ks) for his Sophomore year. He transferred from Seward to SIU last summer. Maldonado pounds the strike zone regularly, but if he is unable to bring anything beyond that, our hitters will take advantage of him the second/third time around in the batting order.

Saturday starter, Cody Forsythe (LHP, So.), does a good job of staying ahead of opposing batters in a pitch count and like Maldonado, can pound the strike zone with strikes. The first 25 batters he faced last Saturday, he threw a first-pitch strike to 16 Grambling State hitters. Being a lefty, he may have better luck with our batting order as long as he is able to maintain pitches for strikes. His match-up should be an interesting one for Gamecock fans as he goes up against our big sophomore lefty, Tyler Webb. It should be power pitching for batters to hit. Sunday starter, Todd Eaton (RHP, Fr.) possesses freshman fastball speed that has been clocked in the high 80's. His fastball has a fluid motion when it heads to the plate, but it might not be enough to shut down our hitters. It will be interesting to see how he does against Westmoreland and it will be one of the more difficult matchups of left-handed hitting Eaton will face this year.

Should trouble arise and starters need relief, they will find it with the following Saluki relief pitchers. Andrew Bever (RHP, R.S. Sr) is their weekday starter and functions as their weekend relief. He was used twice last weekend and held his own against La. Tech (1.1ip, 2h, 2w, 2k in 32NP). Peter Slavonic (RHP/of, Fr.) is another used in multiple games for relief pitching duties, also against La. Tech. He did well against the Bulldogs in his appearance but gave up the final "nail in the coffin" run. Tyler Dray (LHP, Fr.), Bryan Waldrop (RHP, Fr.) are two relievers that got multiple trips to the mound in the past four games, both appearing in relief duties in two games. The obvious trend beyond Saluki starters is the youth of their relievers and the possibility of giving up a big inning before they can be pulled and replaced.

They have an excellent closer, Aaron Snyder (RHP, So.) that is responsible for 2 saves already this season. He may have to go beyond two innings at some point this year and it may be against us. Here is a look at their pitching staff, their numbers from last year and what they have done this year. Percentages and numbers for SIU pitchers reflect present season numbers and 2010 numbers (in parenthesis), when applicable:

31 Cameron Maldonado, RHP (R-R, RS-Jr.); 3.60ERA, 0-1, 5.0ip, 3h, 2r/2e, 4w, 3k (.188oba).

6 Cody Forsythe, LHP (L-L, So.); 0.00(7.88)ERA, 1-0(2-2), 7.0(37.2)ip, 2(63)h, 2(41)r/(31)e, 1(16)w, 5(26)k, (.087 [.373] oba).

20 Todd Eaton, RHP (R-R, Fr.); 4.50ERA, 1-0, 6.0ip, 7h, 3r/3e, 5k (.280 oba).



23 Andrew Bever, RHP (R-R, RS Sr.); 2.45(4.09)ERA, 0-1(1-2), 7.1(41.1)ip, 4(59)h, 3(35)r/2(28)e, 4w, 7k, (.160[.335] oba).

30 Austin Johnson, LHP (L-L, So.); 0.00(4.09)ERA, .2(11.0)ip, (17)h, (5)r(5)e, 1(4)w, (8)k, (.000 [.354] oba).

34 Peter Slavonic, RHP/of (R-R, Fr.); 9.00ERA, 2.0ip, 5h, 2r/2e, 2w, 3k, (.455 oba).

12 Tyler Dray, LHP (L-L, Fr.); 6.75ERA, 1.1ip, 4h, 3r/1e, 3k, (.444 oba).

24 Aaron Snyder, RHP (R-R, So.); 3.38(9.00)ERA, (1-1), 2(0)SV, 2.2(24.)ip, 3(45)h, 1(41)r/1(24)e, 1(7)w, 2(8)k (.333 oba).

25 Bryan Waldrop, RHP (R-R, Fr.) 4.50ERA, 2.0ip, 2h, 1r/1e, 1k (.250 oba).

TOTALS: (SIU) 3.18 ERA; .234 oba (2011 only).

(OPP) 3.09 ERA; .281 oba (2011 only).

They have posted a respectable 3.18 team ERA over the past four games, but they feature quite a few young guns… particularly in relief… that may be taken advantage of by a good hitting team. We meet that description with our bats; we need to advance more runs this weekend and not strand so many runners on base this weekend. We need to do that now in preparation for the pitching staff we will face next weekend. Clemson has a staff that will not be as forgiving. This should be a good weekend for Gamecock baseball as a whole.

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