The Salukis women’s softball team was featured on ESPN’s networks for the first time at the Citrus Classic held in the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Orlando, Fla., Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
Coach Kerri Blaylock said the Salukis, the top team in the Missouri Valley Conference, benefited from playing against other top softball teams in the country by receiving national exposure to recruits and the public.
“It was cool and an awesome experience getting my family to be able to watch it from California,” said senior shortstop Haley Gorman. “We were nationally televised when we made it to the MVC Championship two years ago, but ESPN was
a really cool experience.”
Freshman outfielder Meredith Wilson said most of her family in Granite City gathered around the television at her aunt’s house to watch the Salukis play.
While the team enjoyed playing on national television, lack of solid defensive and offensive left the Salukis with only two wins out of five games total.
Opponents Wisconsin and Maryland swept SIU (6-5) Friday.
The Salukis gave up 16 walks Friday between both games among three pitchers.
Despite the struggle to bounce back offensively, Blaylock said she still believes in her team’s ability to pitch the ball, even against nationally ranked competition.
Things got a bit brighter in the sunshine state for the Salukis Saturday. The Salukis fell short to No. 25 Florida State, but later defeated Marshall with a 10-2 run-rule. Blaylock said her pitchers seemed more comfortable throwing the ball against Florida State. She said the second game was the turning point when she saw the offense come alive.
“We have thrown them into the fire to some really tough competition, and that was our message after today (Saturday) … they know what they have to do to turn it around,” Blaylock said.
The Salukis’ nine hits began with senior Mallory Duran-Sellers’ first home run of the season, in the top of the first against Marshall, along with a big third inning as the Salukis had four runs off three hits.
Blaylock said she was pleased with team’s ability to bounce back because it was what made the difference against Marshall.
On the final day of the tournament, the Salukis claimed a close victory from Duran-Sellers’ stellar play from near the infield dirt to throw out the tying run out at home plate against St. John’s, a Big East team.
The Salukis will open their home season Saturday in the Coach B Classic at the Charlotte-West Stadium .