Daily Egyptian

Patterson’s “hose” on fire

By Sean Carley, @SCarleyDE

SIU softball’s strongest defensive weapon is roaming out in center field.

During her three years in Carbondale, junior center fielder Merri Anne Patterson has developed a reputation as one of the Missouri Valley Conference’s best defensive players.

Hailing from Lynnville, Tenn., Patterson has six outfield assists on the season, most on the team. 

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She has made her home in the outfield her entire SIU career, but wasn’t always the case.

Despite being all-district at shortstop in high school, coach Kerri Blaylock recruited Patterson as an outfielder, knowing her arm belonged beyond the infield dirt.

The transition to the outfield was one of the most difficult things Patterson has faced in her softball career, but she would never want to move back, she said.

“I had a lot of work to do in the outfield,” Patterson said. “I knew I would be making the switch, so I had some time to prepare, but just going from infield to outfield is so hard because of the footwork. It’s so hard mentally to keep going and keep pushing yourself.”

Her strong arm became notorious to other Valley teams during her freshman year.

In the second game of an April 12, 2014 doubleheader at Bradley, Patterson took it upon herself to close out the game. Entering the bottom of the seventh, SIU led the Braves 7-6 and the tying run was at third with one out. Braves catcher Kendall Duffy hit a fly ball to Patterson, in her fifth start of the season, and the Braves tried to test her arm.

The freshman, playing right field, gunned Shannon King at home plate to end the game and secure a Saluki victory.

“They were hitting balls at me all day,” Patterson said after that game. “I was hoping they would test me on a play at the plate. They finally did in the seventh, and I hosed her.”

Since then, “hosing” has become a euphemism for gunning baserunners for the Salukis.

After that game SIU went on a tear with Patterson in the lineup, winning nine of its next 10 games. 

Overall, Patterson has 12 career outfield assists, nine of which are from her outfield position to home.

Patterson said hosing”a runner is by far the most satisfying feeling.

“It’s better than a home run,” she said. “People really see your ability when you can throw someone out in the outfield, to perfectly put the ball at the plate. It can get a lot of things rolling.” 

Patterson said she has no idea where her arm strength came from, suggesting it may have been hereditary.

“They tell me I have a lot of flexibility in my arm so I can get a lot of whip on my throws,” she said. “My mom was a very good softball player and she had a very good arm as well. It’s all very raw.”

She regularly attends physical therapy because of an injury last season, which is the only extra work put in outside of regular practice and general weightlifting.

In her three years at SIU, Patterson has tried each outfield spot. She’s played 48 games in left field, 47 in center and 17 in right. She played right most of her freshman year, then moved to left last year and center this year.

“Center is a bit better because you can see the ball off the bat easier,” she said. “In left, it’s tricky because the ball moves differently than it does to center field like a straight hit.”

Patterson said there’s another “hose” waiting in the wings like she did her freshman year.

“Eyrika [Brandenburg] has a great arm,” she said. “She has a cannon too, she’ll probably be the center fielder her junior year. She reminds me so much of myself because she was a catcher in high school and a shortstop as well, so she has a cannon and it’s not tamed — and that’s how mine was — but we got it under control now.”

After this season, Patterson will have one more campaign to hose runners in center field, before Brandenburg can take over in 2018.

Sean Carley can be reached at [email protected] or at 618-536-3307.

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