Serving the Southern Illinois University community since 1916.

The Daily Egyptian

Serving the Southern Illinois University community since 1916.

The Daily Egyptian

Serving the Southern Illinois University community since 1916.

The Daily Egyptian

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Saluki softball ready to prove itself “one game at a time”

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Lylee Gibbs @lyleegibbsphotography
Rylie Hamilton (1) and Jackie Lis (00) share a handshake after they score the first two outs of the inning back to back against the Beacons of Valparaiso Mar. 19, 2023 at Charlotte West Stadium in Carbondale, Ill.

Batter up! The Southern Illinois University softball team will officially kick off its season at the Texas State tournament on Friday, Feb. 9 in San Marcos. 

Salukis will go head to head against the Creighton University Bluejays at 10 a.m. and will face the Roadrunners from the University of Texas at San Antonio at 2:30 p.m. On Saturday, the Salukis take on Northwestern State University at 10 a.m. and Texas State University at 2:30 p.m. They will finish the tournament on Sunday at 10 a.m. with another matchup with Texas State. 

After the tournament, the 2024 schedule will consist of 46 regular season games and the Missouri Valley Conference tournament, which will take place May 8-11. Head Coach Jennifer Sewell has high hopes for the team this season. 

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“Expectations are very high,” she wrote in an email. “We need to contend for the MVC championship but, first and foremost, we need to hear our name called if we don’t win the Valley tournament. We are an NCAA [tournament] squad on paper – but we have to prove that one game at a time.” 

Sewell said the team has set a goal to be a Top 50 club going into the selection show. 

“We are the top hitting team in the conference already and we will be in the top 3 again in defense,” she wrote. “If our pitching is healthy (unlike last year), we will be in the top 2 in the conference and probably #1.” 

She emphasized that last year’s pitching wasn’t a weakness that needed improving, but rather an obstacle they needed to overcome. 

“Our pitching staff doesn’t need to improve, it needs to stay healthy,” she said. “You can’t improve injuries – we just had to ride the wave last year. Our pitching was great when it was healthy.” 

Sewell described the team’s chemistry as the best she’s ever been around. Third-baseman Rylie Hamilton and left-fielder Elizabeth Warwick agreed. 

“We’re kind of like a family,” Hamilton said. “We’re like a sisterhood, girlhood. We’re really locked in. We don’t really argue, fight. We’re just friends and we’re all happy-go-lucky.” 

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Warwick added, “Like 22 really close friends. We love each other.” 

Hamilton and Warwick are both seniors. The two players want to spend their last season embracing the special moments and working to exceed last year’s achievements. 

“I’m looking forward to just being together again with the team,” Hamilton said. “We have good chemistry on the team so it’s always really fun. I think the really hype moments in games [are] what I’m really looking forward to.” 

Warwick followed up with, “We talk about this a lot in practice but we wanna go to super regionals, taking that next step. That’s kind of what we’re practicing and playing for, so that’s what we want to do.” 

Between earning the MVC tournament title and competing in the NCAA tournament, Saluki Softball was full of success throughout the 2023 season. While it may seem like a lot of pressure to follow up, the team isn’t worried. 

“I don’t really think about it that much,” Warwick said. “Obviously…we want to win, but we don’t really put that much pressure on ourselves. Like, we’re playing because we want to be with each other and we love to win with each other.” 

Hamilton said the team makes sure to focus on “being with the people that you love and playing a sport that you love.” 

“We’re just enjoying the moment,” she said. 

Sewell said, “We don’t hide behind expectations. This program has been doing this for a very long time. Expectations for SIU Softball started a long time ago, long before any of us got here.” 

To prepare for the upcoming season, the team has been focusing on weight training. 

“Shoutout to Meade Smith,” Hamilton said. “He’s our strength coach. He gets us right in the weight room, and we have a lot of fun with him. I feel way stronger than I was three years ago.” 

There are several key players to look out for this season, Sewell said. 

“Jackie Lis, Rylie Hamilton, Elizabeth Warwick and Madi Eberle are the physical leaders of this team,” she said. “But you’re going to see big years out of Maddia Groff, Anna Carder, Addi Baker. I think Emma Austin and Bailey Caylor could have major years.”

The team also has a promising future, thanks to the freshman class. 

“The entire freshman class could be big,” Sewell said. “I think you’ll know Maddia’s name pretty quickly. But don’t sleep on Katherine Johnson, she could be a star right away as well.” 

Warwick said, “They all come ready to go. They’re all really good and they’re definitely gonna be key contributors in the lineup and on the field.”

Hamilton said she thinks “every single freshman has something to bring to the table.” 

“They’re just fun and they fit in,” she said. “They’re calm but they mean business…I’m excited for them. I remember being a freshman. It’s just exciting, and I’m excited for them to experience all this.” 

You can catch the Salukis in action at their first home game against Loyola University Chicago on Saturday, Mar. 9 at 1:30 p.m. 



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