Salukis prepare for championship run

By Terrance Peacock

After a roller coaster regular season, the SIU softball team set their sights on the Missouri Valley Championship, a title the team has not won since 1991.

The MVC Tournament opened today in Omaha, Neb. with the fifth-seeded Salukis (24-26, 12-10 MVC) facing eighth-seeded Wichita Sate (19-32, 10-15 MVC) in an opening-round game slated for 11:05 a.m.

The Salukis took two out of three games from the Shockers during the regular season in Carbondale including a doubleheader sweep April 6. SIU is 49-24 all-time against Wichita State, including 8-0 in MVC Tournament play.


SIU is 42-46 all-time in 29 MVC Tournament appearances. The Salukis have made it to the championship game four times during Coach Kerri Blaylock’s 14 years as head coach but have failed to win the title during her tenure. Last year, the Salukis made it to the championship game but were defeated 13-3 by conference rival Illinois State.

This year, the Salukis finished below .500 for the first time during Blaylock’s tenure and SIU’s No. 5 seed in this year’s tournament is its lowest since 2000.

Creighton grabbed the No. 1 seed in the Valley with a 15-7 conference record and a 29-17 record overall. Drake (29-19, 14-7 MVC) finished second, followed by defending champion Illinois State (28-19, 13-7 MVC) and Northern Iowa (23-24, 13-8 MVC) who rounded out the top-four seeds.

If the Salukis get past the morning matchup against Wichita State, the win will set up an afternoon quarterfinal game against No. 4 seed Northern Iowa at 4:05 p.m. The Panthers took a pair of one-run games March 23 against SIU to take the season series 2-0. UNI junior pitcher Jamie Fisher logged 18 innings in the doubleheader sweep as she kept Saluki batters on their toes all day. SIU is 69-27 all-time against Northern Iowa and 7-4 in MVC Tournament play.

A win against Wichita State will set up a semifinal matchup against top seed Creighton. The Bluejays took two out of three games from the Salukis in the regular season. The Salukis lone win against Creighton came on game two of an April 20 doubleheader when the Salukis beat Creighton 6-1. SIU is 23-30 all-time against Creighton and 5-8 in the MVC tournament.

A victory against Creighton will propel the Salukis into the MVC Championship game and possibly avenge the defeat they took in the 2012 Championship game against the Redbirds.

If the Salukis want to run the table in the tournament, they will have to depend on all four of their Preseason All-Conference team members, junior infielders Taylor Orsburn and Jayna Spivey, junior catcher Allie VadeBoncouer, and senior outfielder Morgan Barchan.


Barchan leads the Valley with 61 hits and ranks fourth in the conference with 42 runs scored. She will have to continue to get on base to provide opportunities for one of the Valley’s most dangerous power hitters, Spivey to drive her in.

Spivey leads the team with 43 RBIs, which also ranks third in the conference. Spivey’s 11 home runs are also second in the conference. If Barchan continues to get on base, and Spivey continues to drive her in, SIU will have a great chance to contend for the championship.

Orsburn is entering the tournament on a 12-game hitting streak and a 21-game on-base streak. Orsburn has recorded a hit in 18 of SIU’s last 19 games and has moved up into a tie for second on the team with 48 hits on the season. Orsburn will be entering the tournament as one of the hottest hitters in the conference and if she can continue to tack on hits, it will be a huge spark for the Salukis.

VadeBoncouer led the NCAA with 28 hit-by-pitches last season and continues to get plunked this year as well. The junior has drawn 22 free bases on hit-by-pitches this season, which is tied for sixth in the nation. Although getting hit by a pitch is not the conventional way to get on base, if VadeBoncouer continues to be a ball magnet, it might produce key runs that could give SIU its first conference championship in 22 years.

Terrance Peacock can be reached at [email protected] or 536-3311 ext. 269.