Salukis experiencing midweek excellence

By Sean Carley, @SCarleyDE

SIU softball was working for the weekend last season, but now it produces all seven days of the week.

The Salukis (23-12, 7-4 Missouri Valley Conference) is 3-0 this season in midweek matchups after going 3-6 in those games last season.

Coach Kerri Blaylock said she made the games a point of emphasis to her team before the season.

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“We did it with our captains in our captain training,” she said. “We just made it a point to be better …  stay ready to go and play complete games midweek.”

The primary way the team has improved in such games is through an increase in focus, said junior center fielder Merri Anne Patterson.

Since these games are often against nonconference opponents, Patterson said she felt the games often weren’t a major concern for the team in previous seasons.

“Sometimes last year, the pitcher wanted it the most and everyone else was just out there to be out there,” she said. “We weren’t focused because it wasn’t a game that really mattered to us.”

Patterson said the team was often worried with work for classes on bus rides to the games, and made a change to address it.

“We don’t get on our computers and do our homework on the way to the game anymore, we try to save it for after the game,” she said. “We don’t do anything that would get us bogged down. Now, they’ll watch a movie or listen to music. They’re so academic, that they wanted to take care of it, and they still do, just after the game. I feel it’s really made a difference.” 

Once the team arrives to its non-weekend matchup, it’s business as usual.

Blaylock said the team’s general strategy remains the same regardless of what day of the week it’s playing on.

“We may do different things in the designated player role or try to get some people some at-bats,” she said. “As far as pitching goes, I just go by feel and who needs to go out there.”

For pitchers, throwing on a Tuesday may mean pitching just a few days after throwing multiple games during a weekend series.

Sophomore Savanna Dover (5-6, 3.81 ERA), who started Thursday at Murray State, said her warmup remains the same for a midweek game, but she may take practice down a notch the day before.

The games also serve the purpose of keeping the team fresh before a weekend series.

“Practice is so boring and monotonous sometimes,” Patterson said. “So getting in these games are the best type of practice we can have.”

Mother Nature has interrupted some of these quasi-practices. The last two scheduled midweek games, March 30 at SIU-Edwardsville and April 6 at Tennessee-Martin, were both canceled because of rain.

If it were not for the last-minute arrangement to play Murray State on Thursday, the Salukis would’ve gone two weeks without playing a midweek game. Blaylock said she believes the cancelation at SIUE affected the team negatively going into its series at Drake, where the team was swept.

“These games help keep you sharp,” she said. “I feel like it makes you flat, especially if the weather is bad and you have to go inside and you’re not getting your preparation outdoors.”

SIU’s next midweek game is at 4 p.m. Wednesday at Charlotte West Stadium against Murray State.

Sean Carley can be reached at [email protected] or at 618-536-3307.

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