Bats falter in senior weekend matchup

The SIU softball team struggled at the plate in its weekend series against the University of Northern Iowa, dropping 2 of 3 games to the Missouri Valley Conference leader.

SIU’s three seniors, Mallory Duran-Sellers, Haley Gorman and Alicia Junker, were recognized following the team’s lone win, the

Freshman outfielder Kalyn Harker hits a grounder Sunday during the Salukis’ 5-0 loss against Northern Iowa University at Charlotte West Stadium. Harker’s hit was one of four by the Salukis for the game. Isaac Smith | Daily Egyptian

second game of a doubleheader Saturday.

A single by second baseman Jayna Spivey was the team’s only hit in a 2-0 loss in the first game, as the Salukis struggled to reach base against UNI pitcher Jamie Fisher.

“Fisher is the top pitcher in the league, no doubt,” SIU coach Kerri Blaylock said. “Later in the game, we needed to take some walks and get on base.”

In game two, the Salukis (32-16, 15-8) gained some momentum with a three runs in the second inning to take a 3-1 lead. The Panthers failed to threaten a comeback for the remainder of the game, as SIU tacked on four more runs to UNI’s zero.

Following the win, the seniors were announced on the field and recognized by an enthusiastic applause from the 230 fans in attendance.

“They’re great kids,” Blaylock said. “They’ve meant a lot to this program. We just talked about how we have five games left in the season, and we still have the tournament. We’ve got a lot left to accomplish.”

Duran-Sellers, the team’s leadoff hitter and starting center fielder, said she couldn’t have asked to be a part of a better team.

“I wouldn’t trade it for anything,” she said. “It’s been a very good experience, and I’ve really enjoyed it. I’m looking forward to finishing the season strong.”

In Sunday’s rubber match, the Salukis again had to deal with UNI’s Fisher in the pitching circle. It was a rematch of sorts from the previous day, as the Salukis started freshman Katie Bertelsen, who had taken the loss against Fisher in the series’ first game despite striking out a season-high nine batters.

Both pitchers started the game strong, but after Bertelsen surrendered a run in the third, Blaylock brought in freshman Alyssa Wunderlich to take over with runners on the corners. UNI’s Mackenzie Daigh took advantage of the change, roping a home run to left field to give the Panthers a 4-0 advantage.

Blaylock said it was a crushing blow for the Salukis.

“I thought we had great at-bats through the first three innings,” she said. “When we gave up the three-run homer, that’s when I thought we went completely away from our approach, and I thought it was kind of the turning point in the game for us. I think our confidence was shattered in that moment, and we didn’t respond after that.”

SIU failed to cross home plate in the game and finished with four hits.

Duran-Sellers said Fisher is a great pitcher, and the team’s inability to adjust to her pitching style played a role in the two losses.

“I have to give Fisher credit, she is a really good pitcher,” Duran-Sellers said. “She will probably be conference pitcher of the year. I think we struggle a little bit making adjustments.”

Bertelsen said the team can turn things around with a strong showing Tuesday in its final home game of the season against Murray State.

“We all need to stay focused and be positive,” she said. “I’m excited, and hopefully we come out there and get a win.”

 

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About Ben Conrady

Ben Conrady can be reached at bconrady@dailyegyptian.com or 536-3311 ext. 282.

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