NORMAL -- The Southern Illinois baseball program's season came to an end with a 4-1 loss to Indiana State in the MVC Tournament on Friday afternoon at Duffy Bass Field. The Sycamores hit three solo home runs and ended Southern's season for the second-straight year.
SIU played well against a highly touted Indiana State team that is likely headed for an at-large berth in the NCAA Tournament. Matthew Steidl started for SIU and allowed just four hits over 4.1 innings, but three of the four hits were solo home runs. Matt DeSomer allowed just two hits and a run in his 2.1 innings of work, and Trey McDaniel pitched 2.1 scoreless innings, allowing one hit, striking out two and walking none. SIU also played error-free defense behind the strong pitching.
"I'm proud of how hard we battled," SIU head coach Ken Henderson said. "We could have quit several times over the course of the year. We could have quit two months ago when things weren't going our way, but we never did. Our guys battled every day, and they battled until the last pitch today. We came in here as the No. 8 seed, and nobody gave us a chance. Here we are, playing on Day Four, and four teams are already home. I think that's a testament to our kids and our seniors. Unfortunately, we came up a little bit short against a really good ballclub, but again, I'm unbelievably proud of our guys and how hard we competed."
But Southern's offense struggled against Indiana State starter Tyler Whitbread, who allowed just five hits and one unearned run over eight innings. With Indiana State needing to win four games in 36 hours to win the tournament, Whitbread threw 131 pitches over eight innings and preserved the Indiana State bullpen while striking out nine and walking three. SIU had traffic on the bases for most of the day but left nine on base in the game, including the bases loaded in the fifth inning.
"We just couldn't come up with that big hit," Henderson said. "Give their guy credit. He executed when he got in those situations, but I thought we played well. Steidl gave us a decent start and gave us a chance. Our bullpen did a great job. We grinded out ABs. We just couldn't find a way to get the runs across. But again, I have no complaints with our guys and what they did all week here. It was a great effort."
SIU finished the season 26-29 despite enduring injuries to two of its weekend starting pitchers and a slew of position players. Only Nikola Vasic and Ian Walters played in all 55 games this year. The Salukis also battled through a 10-game losing streak and came back to win nine games down the stretch, which included wins over nationally ranked Dallas Baptist and Illinois. The loss marks the end of the careers of eight SIU seniors: Colin Butkiewicz, Kenton Crawford, Matt DeSomer, Hunter Hart, Will LaRue, Alex Lyon, Aiden McMahan, and Nikola Vasic.
"Everybody knows it has been a challenging year in terms of the adversity we faced and the injuries," Henderson said. "Nobody can ever say these guys didn't battle every day. That's a testament to those eight seniors and their character. I'm proud of all eight of them, and they should be proud of what they did."