It took one inning for Wichita State to unravel the hottest pitcher in the Missouri Valley Conference.
"We didn't look at the numbers," WSU right fielder Ryan Jones said. "You can come at a pitcher that has a point-whatever ERA, but the deal is we play him today. He hadn't faced our hitters."
The Shockers got to SIU starter Nathan Forer early on their way to a 9-1 win on Saturday at Eck Stadium. They scored four runs in the first inning and two more in the second on a home run by Jones.
Forer, who entered the game with a 0.74 ERA, recovered in the middle innings.
"To get a guy like that early, it helps a ton," WSU catcher Chris O'Brien said. "He threw a lot of fastballs first inning, and that's what a lot of guys keyed on."
Defense put Forer in a hole. WSU leadoff batter Will Baez reached when a high throw from shortstop Michael Stalter pulled first baseman Chris Serritella off the base — oh so briefly. He landed on it, but not in time to get Baez in the eyes of umpire Greg Harmon. Protests from SIU (15-16, 4-4 Missouri Valley Conference) failed to change the call, and the Shockers took advantage.
Tyler Grimes singled. Forer fielded Jones' bunt and his high throw allow him to reach and load the bases. Preston Springer followed with a two-RBI single. After a walk and a double play, O'Brien smashed a double over the center fielder's head to put the Shockers (21-9, 7-1) up 4-0.
In the second inning, Jones' home run to the opposite field made it 6-0 and the Shockers cruised to their sixth straight win. WSU has scored nine or more runs in all six wins. It led in the first or second inning of all six games.
"It's a great feeling when everyone starts early," O'Brien said. "We had a problem like that when we were not winning. We were doubting our own guys. Now that everyone's contributing, no worries. We just keep adding on."
Forer kept that addition from happening until late in the game. He kept the Shockers under control with four scoreless innings. Reliever Cody Forsythe gave up three runs in the eighth, two on Springer's RBI single.
Nine Shockers got a hit. Springer drove in four runs. Jones went 3 for 3 with his sixth home run. Freshman Nate Goro went 2 for 4 with a double.
"I remember two weeks when we were struggling and everybody wasn't hitting well, it was tough," Jones said. "Finally, we all had a meeting, and it was meeting where we said 'Let's get back to having fun. Really come out here like a dog that wants something to eat, instead of coming out here and being scared and playing on our heels.' I think that's the biggest difference — we're playing to go get the ball instead of letting the ball get us."
WSU starter Tim Kelley recorded a season-high seven strikeouts while holding the Salukis to eight hits over seven innings.
Forer, who had allowed one earned run in 15 previous innings, gave up seven hits and walked three in six. Only one of the six runs charged to him was earned.
Saturday's box score
Southern Illinois ab r h bi avg.
Murphy cf 5 1 2 0 .339
Pinnon 2b 4 0 3 0 .374
Serritella 1b 3 0 1 0 .359
Montgomery ph 0 0 0 0 .375
Stalter ss 4 0 1 0 .266
Sivertsen ph 1 0 0 0 .198
Johnson lf 4 0 0 1 .347
Harding dh 4 0 0 0 .364
Lepore 3b 4 0 0 0 .315
Bajer c 4 0 2 0 .294
Roberts rf 4 0 0 0 .287
Totals 3 7 1 9 1 .317
Wichita State ab r h bi avg.
Baez 2b 3 1 0 0 .263
Davidson 2b 1 1 1 1 .300
Grimes ss 5 2 1 0 .256
Jones rf 3 1 3 2 .312
Springer dh 4 1 2 4 .364
Bennett lf 2 1 1 0 .329
Bascue lf 1 0 1 0 .652
Bayliff lf 1 0 0 0 .238
McKeever 1b 1 0 0 0 .263
Coy 1b 3 0 0 0 .300
O'Brien c 4 0 1 2 .291
Goro 3b 4 1 2 0 .340
Hall cf 4 1 1 0 .268
Totals 36 9 13 9 .302
Southern Illinois 001 000 000 — 1Wichita State 420 000 03x — 9
E — Stalter, Lepore, Forer, Grimes. DP — SIU 2, WSU. LOB — SIU 13, WSU 8. 2B — O'Brien (6), Goro (1). HR — Jones (6). S — Jones. CS — Jones.
SIU IP H R ER BB SO ERA
Forer L,1-2 6 7 6 1 3 3 0.89
Forsythe1 2/3 6 3 3 1 1 7.45
Etienne 1/3 0 0 0 0 1 6.30
WSU IP H R ER BB SO ERA
Kelley W,5-1 7 8 1 1 1 7 4.25
Guy 2 1 0 0 2 1 2.45
WP — Forer, Kelley 2. HBP — Johnson (by Kelley). Umpires — home, Ken McQueen; first, Greg Harmon; third, Jeff Spisak. T — 2:32. A — 4,116.
Clint McKeever's injured right hamstring returned as a problem in the first inning.
McKeever, a senior first baseman, pulled up lame running to first base on a groundball. He limped off the field, aided by trainer Corey Wood. Johnny Coy replaced him at first base.
"This one, I think he pulled and it's going to be awhile," WSU coach Gene Stephenson said.
The hamstring began bothering McKeever last weekend at Evansville after the first game of the series. He did not play in the final two games, or at Oklahoma State on Tuesday. He went 1 for 4 in Wednesday's win over Rogers State and did not play in Friday's series opener against SIU.
"He said he was 100 percent," Stephenson said. "We kind of held him back from playing too much and he had a fine experience on Wednesday night."
If McKeever is out, Preston Springer will likely take most of the time at first with Cody Lassley as the designated hitter. Coy is also an option . He has started four games at first.
New look at second
Freshman Walker Davidson is just days off the injury list and already pushing for playing time. Stephenson inserted him in the seventh inning, both for defense at second base and to face Southern Illinois' lefty reliever.
"Will Baez has been struggling, because he's not hitting," Stephenson said. "When Will hits, he plays. When he doesn't, it's a struggle for him. He wants to be such a good hitter, and he's capable. Unfortunately, it carries over, sometimes, in the field."
Baez went 0 for 3 with a walk to drop his average to .263. Davidson, who underwent an appendectomy on March 30, drove in a run with an eighth-inning single. He started Wednesday's game against Rogers State, his first action after surgery.
"We have some players at backup postions who can do some good things," Stephenson said. "Walker got a big hit there in the eighth inning and made some good defensive stops."
Shocker shortstop Tyler Grimes is off the slumping list with a five-game hitting streak in which he is 7 for 19 (.368).
Since March 24, he's raised average from .208 to .256 and his .456 on-base percentage is second on the team.
Grimes, a right-hander, tried switch-hitting early in the season before abandoning that approach. He doesn't blame that experiment for a slow start.
"There's no excuses," he said. "It's just getting back in a rhythm. We've still got a lot of the season left."
WSU sophomore Josh Smith makes his first MVC start today, replacing injured sophomore Charlie Lowell. Smith is coming off a win at Oklahoma State in which he gave up nine hits and four earned runs in 6 2/3 innings.... The Shockers improved to 13-1 at home and are 15-0 when scoring eight or more runs.... WSU has won four straight against the Salukis and 10 of the past 11.
_ Paul Suellentrop