2023 Softball Season Preview


The Saluki softball team is ready to step up to the plate and do whatever it takes to produce the best possible season ahead, starting February 10.

A lot of preparation has taken place for coach Jen Sewell’s first full season as head coach. After spending two years as a volunteer assistant and the 11 years after as retired head coach Kerri Blaylock’s associate head coach, Sewell stepped into the head coach position midway through the 2022 season.

Being only the third head coach in the program’s history, Sewell said being in the program for as long as she’s been has helped her to learn the things that she would need when she moved up to her current position.


“I think I’ve benefited from being an assistant and associate head coach here because I could learn that part of the process,” Sewell said.

While Sewell wants to maintain the program the same way that coaches before her did, technology and analytics are something that she’s looking to add to the program to help it grow. Along with both of these, Sewell said that there are new resources being brought to the program.

“We’ve added nutrition, sports performance, and recovery. We’re not looking to change the program, just adding to what we already have going here,” Sewell said.

Coming into the season, the Salukis are returning around half of their team from the previous season and the other half are newcomers. This means that the first few games are going to be figuring out where the team is at with its tough RPI schedule.

The team commenced its preseason eight-day minicamp prior to spring semester classes starting. This camp consisted of the team and coaching staff spending the majority of their days together, from meals, training and lifts to performance and nutrition work. This minicamp played an important role in the team bonding for the season, which is something senior outfielder Aubree DePron said benefited the team a lot.

“Out of my four years here at SIU, this has to be the team with the best chemistry overall. Everybody gets along with each other, everyone is equal and no one feels above another, everyone wants what’s best for each other,” she said.

DePron said, in past years, there have been some issues with chemistry on the team, but that is something Sewell is trying to add to the program.


During the preseason, Sewell has set up multiple activities to help the players grow their chemistry. From having fellow athletes, the Saluki Shakers teach the team their advanced dance routine to doing yoga activities together, Sewell has found many ways to help the team bond.

“I think that is why we’re doing so well in our look out for the team this year, it’s really exciting because we do get along on and off the field and I think that will get us far,” DePron said.

Another thing that Sewell has put in place for team bonding is meetings with the school’s faculty athletic representative, Dr. Julie Partridge. These meetings make it so that the team can discuss concerns, excitements, or pressure and how to handle these things together.

Looking forward to the season, the Salukis’ schedule consists of 47 regular season games beginning on Feb. 10 in Fort Myers Florida for the FGCU/Four Points by Sheraton Invitational. Following the invitational, the Salukis will travel to Mexico for the Puerto Vallarta Challenge where they will take on Kansas, Ole Miss, NDSU, and Sacramento State, which are teams that they don’t get to compete against often.

Following their week of travels, the Salukis will return home to host the Coach B Classic and the Saluki Invitational. After recent upgrades to their field, the players are excited to host, not only these two tournaments, but the Missouri Valley Conference Championship as well. The last time the championship was hosted at SIU was in 2016.

After losing to Illinois State in their first game of the championship last season, the Salukis are ready to take their home field advantage to help them advance further into the tournament this year.

SIU is looking to see quite a few opponents that were ranked in the NCAA’s top 100 RPI, four of which are MVC opponents: UNI, Missouri State, Belmont and Murray State. Sewell said the approach to these games isn’t going to be different than any other game, but it may look different than previous seasons due to a change in lineup.

“I think we have somewhat of an advantage because we’ve really changed up our lineup. We need to win as many of these games as we can and pick up as many high RPI games as we can, we just need to be very detailed about how we do it,” Sewell said.

When it comes to things to improve on, DePron said that, in a conversation at practice, Sewell told the team she never has to worry about anyone not giving 100% effort at all times, but paying attention to the little details is something players need to focus on.

“I think sometimes we start lacking on this, after that conversation everyone has made adjustments, making sure to pay attention to the small details. Now we just need to make sure we keep that up and be consistent with it,” DePron said.


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Sports reporter Joei Younker can be reached at [email protected].