The SIU softball team returns with a strong offensive base from last year’s squad in expectation of a strong 2012 season.
The Salukis ended their 2011 season with a 4-1 loss to Drake University, which placed them third in the Missouri Valley Conference. They finished the season 36-17 overall, and 17-6 in the MVC. Players say the upcoming season is looking even better.
Based on the team’s productive workouts during the off-season, coach Kerri Blaylock said Wednesday she’s eager for the season to start.
Blaylock said the team has had 10 practices since the beginning of the year, seven of which were outside. She said she’s expecting the team to get back outside approximately five or six more times before their first game.
She said the team has shown their offensive abilities and she is anxious to see what the defense will look like this season.
Blaylock said getting the outfielders outside and being able to pitch to the hitters has allowed them to better prepare for the season.
Every year the team enters a season, Blaylock said its attitude should always reflect winning.
“Every time we go into a season, if we’re not expecting a challenge for the Valley championship, then we missed it,” Blaylock said. “That’s our goal. Our goal is to challenge for a Valley championship every year.”
The preseason polls were released Wednesday and the Salukis were placed to finish third in the MVC. Blaylock said this was exactly where she expected the team to be, especially after its season finish last year, and she said she wants the team to stay focused on winning the championship.
Senior outfielder Mallory Duran-Sellers, team captain and MVC Preseason All-Conference Team recipient, said because it’s her senior year she looks forward to a successful season.
“I really don’t have a whole lot to lose, but aside of that we have a lot of our offensive powers coming back from last year and a young pitching staff that our coach has a lot of faith in,” Duran-Sellers said. “I’m really looking forward to see what we do out there.”
Duran-Sellers said the preseason polls have helped the team build more confidence and knock off some of the other teams that are ranked higher than SIU.
Along with Duran-Sellers, sophomore infielder and 2012 MVC Preseason All-Conference Team recipient Taylor Orsburn said the preseason polls motivated her to compete harder and play at a higher level than the opponent’s.
“I feel great,” Orsburn said excitedly. “I think that we can come out and be on top no matter what.”
Besides Duran-Sellers’ inspirations for this season, she said it’s her responsibility to portray a positive role and good leadership skills to help carry the team throughout the year.
“I’ve been playing for four years now, and I’ve learned how to stay a little bit more grounded,” Duran-Sellers said. “This is something that I really want to be able to pass down to the freshmen.”
Something that has always characterized SIU softball, Duran-Sellers said, is its team chemistry.
“We always get along really well, and we are all big supporters of each other,” she said. “We don’t have a lot of selfish players, so the team’s chemistry is something that comes quite easy for us.”
It’s evident that the players’ relationships are a major building block for the team’s success. And this year, the players say defense and playing together as one unit will help solidify their goal of winning a championship.
The Salukis will kickoff the season Feb. 11 against Miami (Ohio) at the Kennesaw Classic in Woodstock, Ga.