Saluki softball swept in regular season finale


Lylee Gibbs | @lyleegibbsphotography

Saluki Softball gather around home plate to congratulate Rylie Hamilton (1) on her solo home run which scored the first points for the Salukis at the Coach B Classic home opener tournament Feb. 26, 2023 at Charlotte West Stadium in Carbondale, Ill.

Southern Illinois softball dropped a three-game set on the road to the Illinois State Redbirds (30-21, 19-7) over the weekend, in both teams’ final regular season games before the Missouri Valley Conference tournament.

The Salukis end their regular season with a record of 32-18, and 13-14 in Valley play. It is the first time since 1995 that SIU posted a conference record below .500.

As for the MVC tournament, Southern holds the sixth seed and will face No. 11 UIC (9-42, 7-20) on Wednesday night at 7 p.m., with the winner playing Illinois State the next night. Because of the way the bracket played out, the regular season finale served as a potential preview for the conference tournament if the Salukis were to advance past UIC.


One major difference in favor of Southern is that it will be hosting the Valley tournament for the first time since 2016. The Salukis went 20-3 at home in the regular season, marking the most wins in Carbondale since 2006.

If the Salukis advance to be matched up with the Redbirds, they will want to avoid repeating this weekend’s result. It began on Friday with a leadoff home run off Madi Eberle, starting a streak of scoring runs in each of the first three innings.

The teams traded runs, but the final three innings went scoreless on both sides as Illinois State held down a 6-5 lead in the opener. Four runners were stranded in the 3.1 innings after the Salukis brought it within one, including two runners stranded at second base.

Saturday’s doubleheader resulted in back-to-back walk-offs for the Redbirds. The first came in a high-scoring 12-11 affair. Southern broke it open with a six-run top of the 2nd, and Illinois State responded with five of their own in the bottom of the inning.

The Salukis swung back with four runs in the third, coming on a bases-clearing triple by Jackie Lis followed by a home run from Rylie Hamilton. Lis’s triple put her at 52 RBI this season, breaking the school record in that category previously held by Allie VadeBoncouer and Katie Wilson.

However, the Redbirds chipped away with two each in the next two innings, and brought the SIU lead to 10-9 through four innings. Simliarly to Friday, the scoring came to a halt for the rest of the game, until the Salukis added an insurance run in the top of the 7th.

Holding an 11-9 lead, the Salukis turned to Eberle to close out the game as the tying run had been put on base with a walk and a hit-by-pitch. Eberle tossed a wild pitch, and then gave up a game-tying double against her first batter. After a groundout advanced the go-ahead run to third, a wild pitch allowed the Redbirds to walk it off.


Although the Salukis had a chance to salvage the series later that day with the doubleheader, the series finale didn’t fare much better for SIU. A complete game from the Redbird starter held Southern to just one run on three hits.

Meanwhile, the Redbirds carried their offensive showcase from earlier that day into the fresh contest, putting up a 10 runs and ending the day with a walk-off home run to run-rule the Salukis 10-1 in six innings.

Despite the unfortunate end to their season, the Salukis will have a fresh start in the Missouri Valley Conference tournament. Not only will they host the tournament, but they have the opportunity for the ultimate get-right game against the lowly UIC Flames.

However, the extra game might prove costly for Southern. Their pitching has already been heavily taxed, down to just Eberle and Hannah Hockerman since freshman Elliott Stinson played her last game on April 11. Needing to win four games in four days to run the gauntlet, it might be too much to put on the arms of just two players.

This program has plenty of experience performing in the postseason, and this current group won the tournament just two years ago. That 2021 team similarly pulled an upset over the fresh favorite Illinois State Redbirds. Whether history can repeat itself will be decided in the coming days.

First pitch for Wednesday’s game against UIC is scheduled for 7 p.m. from Charlotte West Stadium.

Staff reporter Brandyn Wilcoxen can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter at @BrandynWilcoxen.

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