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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Salukis split doubleheader, advance to first Regional final since 2003

Saluki+softball+huddles+together+before+facing+the+California+Golden+Bears+in+the+first+round+of+the+NCAA+Regional+May+17%2C+2024+at+Tiger+Park+in+Baton+Rouge%2C+Louisiana.+Photo+provided+by+Saluki+Athletics
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

The SIU softball team is headed to its second-ever NCAA Regional final after beating California in back-to-back days in the Baton Rouge Regional on Friday and Saturday.

After first beating the Golden Bears in Friday’s opener in the NCAA Tournament, the Salukis were paired up against host No. 9 LSU to begin their Saturday afternoon. The Dawgs would fight valiantly in a losing effort, with a final score of 4-1.

The Tigers got to work early against Saluki ace Maddia Groff, who gave up a two-run homer in the top of the first. Groff ultimately lasted 3.1 innings against the Tigers before being pulled for senior Madi Eberle, who finished the game.

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Eberle found more success against the vaunted LSU lineup. In just under four innings of work, Eberle gave up only two hits and one run, helping keep the Dawgs in the game with only four runs allowed.

However, the pitching staff received little help from their teammates at the plate. Against All-American pitcher Sidney Berzon, the Dawgs were held to only four hits against LSU and scored only one run, courtesy of an Elizabeth Warwick single to score pinch runner Amanda Knutson in the sixth inning.

The Salukis seemed to have their chances at a rally. Warwick’s base hit brought the tying run to the plate, and the inning ended with Jackie Lis stranded at third base.

However, the Dawgs could not find the big hit, which stifled any chance at a Saturday upset of the top-seeded Tigers.

The loss put the Salukis in the second elimination game of the tournament, where they would again face the Cal Bears, fresh off a 15-0 rout of SWAC champion Jackson State.

Eberle got the ball to start the Salukis’ win-or-go-home game, and was tagged for two runs in the top of the first.

However, this time, the Salukis picked up their pitcher. In the bottom of the second, Bailey Caylor and Emma Austin both reached base via errors by Cal third baseman Tatum Anzaldo.

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Caylor would later score on an Anna Carder base hit into center field, cutting the Cal lead in half. 

Carder would collect her second hit in the bottom of the fourth, and advanced to second from a sacrifice bunt by Erin Lee. Warwick reached base via another throwing error by Anzaldo, which brought home Carder as the tying run.

The one-two punch of Warwick and Lis came through in the fourth, as the latter drove in the former with a double to right center, giving the Dawgs a lead they wouldn’t relinquish. 

Eberle settled in for the rest of her 4.1 innings before handing the ball to Groff for the final eight outs. They combined to give up just five hits against the Golden Bears, all singles, en route to a 3-2 Salukis win.

The win – Southern’s second in two days against the Pac-12 and soon-to-be ACC foe – sets up a rematch against LSU on Sunday in the final round of the Baton Rouge Regional. The first game is scheduled for 3 p.m.

In the double-elimination format, Southern Illinois will need to beat LSU twice on Sunday in back-to-back games in order to advance to the Super Regional. However, a win by the Tigers in either of the two possible games would eliminate the Salukis and end their season.

It will be Southern’s second-ever trip to a Regional final, the first coming in 2003 in the Tuscaloosa Regional. During that run, SIU defeated another Pac-12 foe, Stanford, before falling to host Alabama.

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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