The SIU softball team faced early offense troubles during game one of its weekend series against in-state rival Illinois State.
The team struggled so much that coach Kerri Blaylock needed to spark a fire under her team. She did so by getting ejected.
“It was definitely a move to try to get things going,” associate head coach Jen Sewell said in a Saluki Athletics release. “Road games are tough in this league. Every time you come to Illinois State, you need to play with a lot of emotion. I really feel like (the ejection) changed what we were doing at the plate.”
The Salukis (14-16, 2-5 Missouri Valley Conference), who were down 3-0 after the first inning, survived an 11-10 back-and-forth affair against the Redbirds (14-14, 1-2 MVC) Friday and split the doubleheader Saturday to earn their first two conference wins of the season.
SIU bounced back to outscore Illinois State 11-1 over game one’s next five innings to take a commanding lead against ISU.
Junior infielder Jayna Spivey’s third-inning three-run shot tied Friday’s game at four. The Salukis then exploded for five more runs in the fourth inning, highlighted by a two-run home run by sophomore outfielder Kalyn Harker.
Freshman infielder Kelsey Gonzalez and sophomore outfielder Meredith Wilson capped off the Salukis’ runs with two RBI doubles in the fifth inning to lead Illinois State 11-4.
The Redbirds’ bats came back to life in the seventh as they scored six runs to pull within one run of the Salukis. However, their comeback attempt fell short as SIU sophomore pitcher Katie Bertelsen produced a fly ball to preserve the win and record her first save of the season.
Eight of SIU’s nine batters notched a hit in the game, and four Salukis picked up multiple hits in the 13-hit performance.
“I think those players have really been putting a lot of pressure on themselves to hit the ball in RBI situations,” Sewell said. “It has taken a little bit of time after that early, tough part of that schedule. They have kind of settled in and gotten back to who they are.”
Senior pitcher Brittney Lang (8-8) picked up the Saluki win.
SIU rallied from a 6-0 deficit in game two, but Illinois State proved to be too much to handle as the Redbirds defeated the Salukis 10-6 to even the series.
Sophomore pitcher Alyssa Wunderlich gave up three runs in each of the first two innings off of five hits and three walks.
Wunderlich settled in and allowed one run on three hits over the next three innings.
Bradley sparked the Saluki offense with a solo home run to lead off the third inning and Harker followed with a three-run shot in the fourth to pull SIU back 7-4.
However, ISU produced three more runs in the sixth inning to build a comfortable lead and eventually came away with the win.
The Salukis broke a 3-3 tie after four innings with a six-run sixth inning to seal the series-finale victory and with it, the series win.
Bertelsen relieved Lang in the bottom of the second and kept ISU off the scoreboard for the rest of the game. The sophomore struck out three and allowed three hits and three walks in 5.1 innings.
“It was a totally gutsy performance by her,” Sewell said. “She used the strike zone to her advantage. She just hit every spot.”
The Saluki offense produced heavily in the sixth inning. A solo home run by junior catcher Allie VadeBoncouer, followed by a two-run double by Gonzalez and an RBI double by senior outfielder Morgan Barchan, proved to be all the Salukis needed to seal the win.
Orsburn closed the inning with SIU’s fifth home run of the day, a two-run homer to put the Saluki lead at 9-3.
The Salukis take on SIU-Edwardsville at 4 p.m. today at Charlotte West Stadium.