Salukis lose ground during pivotal games

By Terrance Peacock

SIU’s softball team traveled to Creighton for a crucial conference series and left with a loss in two of three games to drop SIU further in conference standings.

Before the matchup, the Salukis (20-24, 8-10 Missouri Valley Conference) faced Evansville in a Wednesday doubleheader and dropped both games to the Purple Aces.

The Salukis have now lost four out of their last five conference games and are now sixth in the MVC, dropping from fourth.

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After the doubleheader loss against Evansville, coach Kerri Blaylock said her team was close in its attempt to pick up the two pivotal wins.

“It seems like in the games we are dropping, just one piece of the puzzle has been missing,” Blaylock said in a Saluki Athletics release. “At this point in the season, you just have to be ready, you have to get back out there and get back after it.”

In game one of Saturday’s doubleheader against the first-place Bluejays(26-12, 12-3 MVC), the Salukis and Bluejays went scoreless in the first seven innings.

Both teams then erupted in the eighth inning to score a combined 11 runs, but the Salukis fell short and Creighton preserved the 6-5 win after a walk-off two-run single.

Senior pitcher Brittney Lang (10-12) suffered the loss after she allowed six runs on nine hits with 13 strikeouts and two walks in 7.2 innings.

“Except for one inning, Brittney threw by far the best game she has all season,” Blaylock said. “I thought she got careful. She wanted to throw strikes and get out of the game, instead of sticking with her plan.”

SIU picked up seven hits in the game, but no Saluki recorded multiple hits.

SIU bounced back in game two after a tough extra-innings loss in game one to defeat the Bluejays 6-1.

“You’ve got to give the kids a lot of credit for sticking in there, hitting the ball hard and coming up with a huge win in the second game,” Blaylock said.

SIU used a five-run fifth inning and strong pitching performances from sophomore pitchers Alyssa Wunderlich and Katie Bertelsen to claim Saturday’s second game. Wunderlich (7-9) nabbed the win after she allowed one run on three hits with five strikeouts and three walks in 4.1 innings. Bertelsen allowed no runs on two hits, two walks and two strikeouts in 2.2 innings.

“I give Alyssa Wunderlich credit for coming in and settling us down right away,” Blaylock said. “I wanted to score a lot earlier than we did in the second game, but Bertie came in and just did a great job.”

Sophomore outfielder Meredith Wilson went 3-4 with two RBIs to lead the Saluki offense, and senior outfielder Morgan Barchan went 3-5 with two runs scored and sophomore outfielder Kalyn Harker went 2-4 with a run scored.

In Sunday’s series finale, Creighton shut out SIU 5-0 to pick up the series win.

The Salukis recorded just three hits against Creighton’s ace pitcher, junior Becca Changstrom, and just one Saluki made it to third base the entire game.

“I thought Changstrom did a good job against us today,” Blaylock said. “We had trouble making adjustments against her.”

The Bluejays scored one run in the second inning and three in the third to jump out for an early 4-0 lead and put the game away.Lang (10-13) took the loss and allowed three runs on five hits with three strikeouts in 2.1 innings.

“I just think we let it slip away a little bit,” Blaylock said. “I wish it wouldn’t have gotten so far with a couple of defensive mistakes.”

The Salukis will be back in action today as SIU hosts Evansville, at Charlotte West Stadium.

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