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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    Groff twins, defense send SIU to NCAA regional semifinals

    Saluki Athletics
    Saluki softball huddles together before facing the California Golden Bears in the first round of the NCAA Regional May 17, 2024 at Tiger Park in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Photo provided by Saluki Athletics

    Defense was the name of the game Friday as the SIU softball team took down the Cal Bears in the first round of NCAA Regionals in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. 


    First baseman Sidney Jones’ full-extension, leaping catch in the bottom of the first and the ensuing double play ended the inning and slammed the door on the momentum that Cal had been steadily building. 



    Rylinn Groff made a pair of crucial outs from the catcher position, diving for two balls that were foul tipped into the air. Her second catch was especially impressive, as she withstood a hard collision with the wall to earn the first out of the third inning.


    Other standout defensive plays included Jackie Lis’ diving catch in the bottom of the fifth, Rylie Hamilton’s lunging tag on the basepath in the sixth, and Maddia Groff ending the fourth by fielding a bunt and firing it to a waiting Jones at first.


    The Salukis looked at home in their first NCAA Regional win since 2019. In the top of the first, they managed to get two runners on, but were unable to bring any of them home. 



    The second inning is where things fell apart for the Bears, to the benefit of the Dawgs. Bailey Caylor led off the inning with a comeback single that ricocheted off of Cal’s Hailey Archer’s arm. 


    Archer proceeded to hit designated player Anna Carder with a pitch, putting runners on first and second before throwing a pitch over her catcher’s head, which advanced Caylor to third. A wild pitch brought Caylor home and put Rylinn Groff on first.


    Archer was replaced by Ryann Orange, who walked in Carder after giving Erin Lee and Lis free passes to first. Orange then walked Elizabeth Warwick, which brought Groff across the plate and put the Salukis up 3-0. 


    Another pitching change for Cal yielded consecutive sacrifice flies from Hamilton and Jones, which scored another two runs for the Dawgs. The Salukis managed to find themselves up 5-0 after the second while only needing one hit to do so. 


    From there, the game quickly descended into a pitching battle. Cal rallied and managed to score three runs in the bottom of the second inning off Maddia Groff, who on the day gave up four earned runs, her highest of the season.


    The Dawgs’ offense largely went cold for the rest of the game. They scored no runs, left six runners on base and managed only four more hits against Cal’s Randi Roelling.


    Cal’s offense was similarly stymied by Groff, who pitched the entire game. The Bears managed only one run in the last five innings as Groff struck out four, including the last out of the game. 


    The win, which was SIU’s first in an NCAA regional against a power conference since 2005 and coach Jen Sewell’s 100th as the Salukis head coach, earned the Dawgs the chance to face the ninth-ranked LSU Tigers on their home field on Saturday at noon. The winner of that game will advance to Sunday’s regional championship game, while the loser will play again at 5 P.M.

    Sports reporter Ryan Grieser can be reached at [email protected]. To stay up to date on all your southern Illinois news, be sure to follow The Daily Egyptian on Facebook and on X @dailyegyptian.


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