Grand slam lifts SIU past Purple Aces

By Terrance Peacock

The SIU softball team used a first-inning grand slam to beat Evansville 4-3 Tuesday and bring its conference record to 9-10 and avoid a season sweep by the Purple Aces.

The Salukis (21-24, 9-10 Missouri Valley Conference) lit up Evansville ace pitcher Sarah Patterson in the top of the first inning.

Saluki senior outfielder Morgan Barchan led the inning with a single to right field. Junior infielder Jayna Spivey followed Barchan’s single with a one-out walk, and junior catcher Allie VadeBoncouer walked to load the bases for senior outfielder Michelle Bradley. Bradley stepped to the plate and belted a high-fly ball to left field that snuck over the fence for a grand slam, her seventh home run of the season.

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Bradley’s grand slam was the team’s record-setting sixth of the season.

“When the catcher came out and talked to their pitcher, I was thinking, ‘She’s going to try and throw a strike here,'” she said. “I just wanted to hit it where it was pitched.”

After the offense’s early cushion, senior pitcher Brittney Lang settled in the circle and gave up no runs in the games first five innings.

With one out in the top of the sixth inning, Purple Ace senior infielder Kendall Kautz drove a ball to center field for a home run to score the Aces’ first run.

Evansville rallied in the seventh inning to make the game close, but to no avail.

Purple Aces’ sophomore outfielder Kayla Fortner approached the plate with two outs and produced an RBI triple to bring the team within two runs at 4-2.

Coach Kerri Blaylock then went to the bullpen and brought in sophomore pitcher Katie Bertelsen to relieve Lang. Kautz then came to the plate and hit a dribbler to Bertelsen and beat the pitcher’s throw to first for an RBI single.

With the go-ahead run at the plate, Bertelsen forced a grounder back to her to end the game.

Lang (11-13) picked up the Saluki win. She pitched 6.2 innings, gave up nine hits, three runs and recorded eight strikeouts. Bertelsen picked up her third save of the season.

Junior infielders Taylor Orsburn and Kelsea Ashton led the Saluki offense with two hits each.

Blaylock said defense and pitching was key to the Salukis’ win.

“When we play really well, one of the main parts is the pitching and the defense,” she said. “When we are steady on the mound and we make good decisions, we are really good.”

Bradley said it is crucial for the team to get hot down the stretch despite the Salukis up-and-down season.

“We haven’t really gotten our way a lot of the time,” Bradley said. “We’ve dealt with a lot of struggles this season, and to be able to finish strong in the end will be big.”

SIU will head to Cape Girardeau, Mo., Thursday for a non-conference matchup against Southeast Missouri State before the team plays a weekend series against Bradley on Saturday and Sunday.

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