MARTIN, Tenn. – The University of Tennessee at Martin baseball team fell 8-4 to Southern Illinois this afternoon in non-conference action at Skyhawk Field.
The Skyhawks faced a 5-0 deficit after three innings of play but gave a valiant effort in the ninth inning. Trailing by six runs against one of the best closers in the Missouri Valley Conference, UT Martin tallied a pair of runs on three hits and had the tying run in the on-deck circle. However, time ran out on the Skyhawk comeback attempt.
On the mound, the Skyhawks set a season-high in strikeouts for the second straight game, as five pitchers piled up 11 strikeouts against three walks. That came after UT Martin fanned 10 batters in the series finale against Southeastern Louisiana on Feb. 17.
Starting pitcher John Houston was hit with the loss today, allowing four runs in two innings. John Skubina tossed a career-high four innings in relief, conceding just two runs while not issuing a walk. Stu Jones did not allow a hit while fanning four over two scoreless innings, while Trevor Lundgrin (0.1 innings) also chalked up a shutout appearance. Jacob Gansert (0.2 innings, two runs) also made his Skyhawk debut today.
Sophomore Nico Zych had a pair of hits today for UT Martin (0-4), also driving in a run at the plate. Wade Collins, Phil Sorensen and Luis Paublini-Campos also picked up RBI’s today, while Grant Glasser, Brent Morris, Byron Johann and Kyle Bargery accounted for runs scored.
“We want to see improvement every time out and today we were better defensively,” Skyhawk head coach Bubba Cates said. “We didn’t commit an error and I thought we did a good job of fielding in general. I thought all of our pitchers did some good things and had another good strikeout performance after striking out 23 batters last weekend. We have a lot of new players and are trying to get people comfortable – we are moving in the right direction.”
Southern Illinois (2-2) scored the first five runs of the game, plating one run in each of the first two innings before a three-run frame in the third.
Skubina then held the Salukis scoreless in the fourth, paving the way for UT Martin’s offense to get on the scoreboard in the fourth. Glasser led things off with a single through the right side and advanced to third on a single up the middle by Morris. After Morris took second on a wild pitch, Kenny King was hit by a pitch to load the bases with one out. Collins then drew a walk and Morris scored on a fielder’s choice to make the score 5-2 after four innings.
The Salukis got one run back in the top of the fifth but the Skyhawk bullpen kept Southern Illinois off the scoreboard over the next three frames. Skubina needed only eight pitches to retire the side in order in the sixth. Jones posted another shutout inning in the seventh and followed that by striking out the side in a perfect eighth.
Southern Illinois would add two more runs in the ninth but the Skyhawks were still very much alive in the bottom half. Johann – who entered the game in the seventh inning – ripped a double to the left field wall to lead off the inning. Bargery was then hit by a pitch and Zych followed with an RBI single through the left side. With two outs, Paublini-Campos guided a 1-2 pitch into right field for a pinch-hit single, scoring Bargery. However, UT Martin’s rally was cut short in its next at-bat.
The Skyhawks have a quick turnaround for their next contest, as they travel to No. 8 Ole Miss on Wednesday, Feb. 20. First pitch is scheduled for 4 p.m.