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Coach Blaylock’s 600th win highlights SIU softball’s weekend in Florida

Then-junior center fielder Merri Anne Patterson smiles after a meeting with coach Kerri Blaylock on April 7, 2016  against Murray State at Racer Field in Murray, Ky. Patterson went 1-3 with an RBI and a walk in the 10-5 Saluki win.

Then-junior center fielder Merri Anne Patterson smiles after a meeting with coach Kerri Blaylock on April 7, 2016 against Murray State at Racer Field in Murray, Ky. Patterson went 1-3 with an RBI and a walk in the 10-5 Saluki win.

By Sean Carley

The second weekend of SIU softball’s season sent the Salukis to central Florida to play five games in three days in the Eastern Michigan Tournament.

Here’s how the team did:

Game one – against North Dakota

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SIU’s first game of the weekend was a misstep for the Salukis as they dropped a 5-3 contest to North Dakota.

The Fighting Hawks got to SIU sophomore pitcher Nicole Doyle early, scoring one run each in the first two innings.

Senior center fielder Merri Anne Patterson responded with a two-RBI double off the wall to tie the game and start her hot weekend. She went 6-for-17 on the weekend with seven RBIs.

The game wouldn’t be tied for long as North Dakota hit a home run in the bottom of the third to retake the lead. But, junior infielder Sydney Jones tied the game again in the top of the fourth with a solo home run, her third of the year.

SIU eventually fell behind for good after junior pitcher Savanna Dover allowed her first runs of the season in the sixth on a two-RBI single to junior outfielder Taylor Nadler. Dover picked up her first loss of the season.

Game two – against Alabama-Birmingham

The Salukis responded immediately with a 4-3 win against UAB, but it wasn’t easy.

SIU took a 3-1 lead in the sixth inning when freshman right fielder Susie Baranski came around to score on a wild pitch from Blazers senior Madison Hir, forcing UAB to score two runs to extend the game. The Blazers did exactly that when down to their last out.

Senior outfielder Joanna Fallen scored the necessary runs on a two-RBI single with two outs in the seventh to send the game into extras.

In the eighth, Baranski picked up the eventual game-winning RBI on a sacrifice fly.

This time, SIU sophomore pitcher Brianna Jones closed the game out to get her second win on the season. She pitched all eight innings, allowing six hits and striking out eight.

Game three – against Massachusetts

The Salukis’ momentum came alive in day two of the tournament with their most resounding offensive game of the weekend, beating UMass 7-0.

The victory was also a milestone for Saluki coach Kerri Blaylock as it marked her 600th career win.

SIU scored all seven of its runs in the fourth; two on a double from junior shortstop Savannah Fisher, three on a triple from freshman second baseman Maddy Vermejan, one when Baranski reached on an error, and another on a single from Patterson.

Meanwhile, Dover was shutting down the Minutewomen all game. She only allowed five hits and two walks while striking out four to pick up her third shutout of the season.

UMass went 1-6 with runners in scoring position against Dover.

Game four – against Michigan State

SIU’s first game against a Power 5 opponent wasn’t a problem as it defeated Michigan State 4-2.

Just like the previous game, the Salukis scored all their runs in one inning. This time, it was the fifth.

Patterson and Vermejan continued their solid days with a two-RBI hit each in the inning.

However, MSU would make things interesting in the seventh. The Spartans loaded the bases on Brianna Jones with only one out.

Sophomore left fielder Ebonee Echols brought two of the runners with a two-RBI single, and represented the tying run on base.

Jones was able to get a foul out and strikeout after that to seal the victory and hand Michigan State its second loss of the season.

Game five – against Boston University

The weekend didn’t end on a winning streak, losing to Boston University 5-4 in a back-and-forth affair.

Doyle gave up two runs in the first, but SIU would get them right back on RBI hits from Patterson and Sydney Jones.

Boston picked up another run in the fourth. Once again, its lead didn’t last long.

In the bottom of the inning, sophomore outfielder Eyrika Brandenburg got her first two RBIs of the season on a single up the middle to give SIU its first lead of the game.

The Terriers then gained the lead for good after two errors from Fisher and a hit batter loaded the bases in the fifth. Sophomore third baseman Alexa Ponce singled to bring home the tying run before SIU brought in Dover to try to escape the jam.

Dover then hit the second batter of the inning to force the home the game-winning run.

Doyle was marked for the loss. She’s now 0-3 on the season with a 4.54 ERA.

SIU will continue its early season tournament travel Friday through Sunday at the Mississippi State Tournament in Starkville, Mississippi.

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