MARTIN, Tenn. – The University of Tennessee at Martin baseball team was tied with Southern Illinois through five innings this afternoon but the Salukis accounted for the final four runs of the game to deal the Skyhawks a 6-2 loss in their 2014 home opener at Skyhawk Field.
Redshirt senior Alex Boshers put together another solid effort this afternoon for UT Martin (1-7), allowing just two runs on three hits through five frames. After allowing two runs in the top of the first, he settled in and allowed the Skyhawks to eventually tie the game before departing.
Stu Jones, John Skubina and John Houston combined for 2.1 no-hit innings in relief, fanning four batters in the process. Carter Smith (0-1) took the loss after conceding four runs in 1.2 innings of work.
At the plate, the Skyhawks were held to two hits but drew a season-high nine walks at the dish. Drew Erie and Fletcher Johnson recorded back-to-back RBI singles in the bottom of the fourth while Chase Young drew four walks out of the No. 2 hole in the lineup.
After Southern Illinois (5-2) scored a pair of runs in the top of the first, the Skyhawks loaded the bases in the bottom half but couldn’t get on the scoreboard.
Boshers worked out of trouble in the second and pitched around a leadoff double in the third to keep the Salukis off the scoreboard. Right fielder Taylor Cox helped out Boshers with a full-extension, diving catch to his right for the third out of the second inning, stranding a pair of runners.
Boshers escaped a jam in the fourth when a pair of Skyhawk errors loaded the bases with one out. Southern Illinois then appeared to add to its lead thanks to a sacrifice fly but the Skyhawks won an appeal when the umpire ruled that the Saluki baserunner had tagged up too early on the close play at the plate.
With momentum shifting to UT Martin’s side after the reversed call, Cox (fielder’s choice) and Zack Malone (hit by pitch) both reached base with one out, setting up Erie for his RBI single into center to split the Skyhawk deficit in half at 2-1. Six pitches later, Johnson lined a single into center to bring in Malone and tie the score at 2-all.
Boshers got two quick outs and was unscathed after back-to-back walks in his fifth and final frame.
Southern Illinois scored once in the top of the sixth but a pair of strikeouts by Smith shut the door on a potential rally. The Salukis then led off the seventh with a solo homer and tacked on two more runs in the frame until Jones came on to record the final out of the inning on three pitches.
Skubina tallied a pair of strikeouts in a scoreless eighth while Houston didn’t allow a ball out of the infield in a shutout ninth inning. However, UT Martin’s bats went cold late and the Salukis held on for the win.
The Skyhawks begin an eight games in 10 days road swing with a weekend series at Stephen F. Austin from Feb. 28 – March 2.