By STEVE KRAH
Philip Archer plays baseball with the words of his father — Leslie Archer — ringing in his ears.
Granted an extra year of college eligibility because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Archer has had hits ringing off his bat in 2021 as a powerful puncher in the Southern Illinois University lineup.
“It’s certainly a blessing to extend your career one more year,” says Archer, a 2016 graduate of Floyd Central High School in Floyds Knobs, Ind., in his fifth college diamond season. “I need to play until I can’t play no more because one day I’m going to be done and enter the real world.
“I will not be a kid anymore.”
As Archer and the Salukis (33-15) enter a Missouri Valley Conference series at Indiana State May 14-16, the lefty-swinging first baseman is hitting .324 (60-of-185) with nine home runs, 16 doubles, 49 runs batted in, 40 runs scored and .965 OPS (.408 on-base percentage plus .557 slugging average).
The 6-foot-3, 240-pounder has produced 13 multi-hit games, including four against Mercer Feb. 26, Southeast Missouri March 24 and Austin Peay April 6.
In three seasons at SIU-Carbondale covering 114 games (112 starts), Archer is hitting .302 (127-of-421) with 16 homers, 26 doubles, 94 RBIs, 84 runs and an .869 OPS (.382 on-base percentage plus .487 slugging average).
He was at Olney (Ill.) Central College in 2017 and 2018 and hit .341 (120-of-351) with 15 homers, 29 doubles, 102 RBIs and 82 runs and an .950 OPS (.397 on-base percentage plus .553 slugging percentage).
What’s Archer’s secret sauce?
“Discipline, hard work and having good coaches and people around me,” says Archer. “With our lineup this whole year, we’ve got a lot of guys swinging it well.”
Archer often bats in the No. 5 or No. 6 hole in SIU head coach Lance Rhodes’ batting order.
“Power hitter — that’s my main role on the team,” says Archer. “I’m there to knock in some RBI’s and make some things happen.”
Saluki hitters receive a detailed scouting report before every game.
It tells them the pitches and tendencies of opposing pitchers.
“If lefty is busting me in, it’s different than a righty living on the outer half,” says Archer.
Archer, who turns 23 on May 28, was born in Indianapolis but grew up in Greenville, Ind.
At Floyd Central, Archer played for Highlanders head coach Casey LaDuke.
Casey is a great guy and a great coach,” says Archer. “He’s done a great job with the program and the facilities.
“Learning from him at a young age was huge for me with his elite-level practices.”
At Olney Central, Archer played for veteran Blue Knights head coach Dennis Conley.
With Conley’s success and demeanor, Archer likens him to Hall of Famer Augie Garrido.
“You can’t beat knowledge and experience of Dennis Conley,” says Archer. “He’s got it all.
“He’s calm when he needs to calm, but he’s got a fire.”
During his time at Olney, Archer was a Great Rivers Athletic Conference and National Junior College Athletic Association District 24 Player of the Year. The Blue Knights went 41-16 in 2017 and 42-16 in 2018.
Former Zionsvillle Community High School and University of Southern Indiana player and SIU assistant Ryan Bertram managed the Jazz.
Leslie and Mary Anne Archer have three sons — Andrew, Philip and Joel. Andrew Archer is with the Clarksville (Ind.) Police Department.
Archer did not play in 2019 while attending to summer classes and a job. There was very little opportunities to play in 2020 due to the pandemic.
After the Indiana State series, Southern Illinois completes the MVC slate with games agaisnt Dallas Baptist and then hosts the conference tournament.
Will professional baseball coming calling for Archer after that?
“If I have an opportunity to play at the next level I’d for sure take it,” says Archer. “If not, I’ll move on and be satisfied with my career.”