Daily Egyptian

Poor hitting dooms Salukis in midweek sweep

By Sean Carley, @SCarleyDE

SIU softball’s hitting nightmares continued Tuesday.

Evansville freshman pitcher Morgan Florey shut down the Salukis all day as the Aces swept the Salukis 1-0 and 3-2 in a midweek doubleheader.

Game One was a pitchers duel in its purest form. 

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Freshmen starting pitchers Brianna Jones (18-8, 1.86 ERA) and Florey (12-7, 1.97 ERA) came into the contest leading the Missouri Valley Conference in ERA and they performed as such.

SIU (25-16, 8-8 MVC) and Evansville (20-20, 8-9 MVC) combined for three hits and seven base runners total, but freshman right fielder Kristin Koepke’s solo home run in the sixth inning was the difference.

Other than the home run, Jones threw a nearly perfect game, allowing two hits across seven innings.

Florey earned her first career complete-game shutout in the afternoon game, striking out nine in the process.

“She’s fantastic and we knew she would be,” SIU coach Kerri Blaylock said. “We knew it would be a tight game and [assistant coach] Jen [Sewell] gave them a plan and we deviated from the plan. That’s what happens when you do that.”

SIU’s only hit was a single from senior shortstop Kelsey Gonzalez to lead off the game.

Evansville didn’t have a runner in scoring position all game, and the two teams combined for 0-11 with runners on.

Because of SIU’s recent offensive struggles, Blaylock made multiple changes in the lineup. 

Only junior first baseman Shaye Harre batted in the same spot of the order for Game Two.

The changes did not help SIU much, as the team accumulated four hits in the nightcap.

The Salukis scored a run in each of the first two innings, but had only one hit in that timeframe.

In the first inning, four walks from Aces starter Amanda Blankenship (3-9, 4.08 ERA) scored the game’s first run. A wild pitch in the second inning plated sophomore second baseman Savannah Fisher for the second Saluki run.

Blaylock said some players confidence is fleeting because of the team’s recent offensive struggles.

“For some people without a doubt,” she said. “That’s just having guts and battling through it. Baseball and softball is a game of failure and slumps happen.”

From that point on, Florey came in and shut the door again for the rest of the game.

Florey, the reigning MVC Newcomer of the Week, pitched 4 1/3 innings, allowing three hits while striking out seven in the second game. Saluki starter Savanna Dover (6-7, 3.20 ERA) pitched 4 2/3 innings, allowing six hits.

Much like last weekend, where the Salukis had six errors across three games, fielding plagued SIU in the second game.

The Dawgs committed three errors, which allowed all three of Evansville’s runs to score. Defense has also been a recent struggle for Salukis, committing nine errors in the last five games.

“Without [the errors] we win that game 2-0,” Blaylock said. “It was about the errors. We have pitched well enough to win the last three ball games.”

Evansville’s go-ahead run scored on a toss by Jones, who came in to relieve Dover, that pulled Harre off the first base bag.

SIU had chances to score in the second game, but went 0-10 with runners in scoring position. 

Since Sunday’s loss to Indiana State, SIU has accumulated seven hits across three games.

Gonzalez and freshman left fielder Eyrika Brandenburg were the only players to get multiple hits on the day.

“At this level you look for a certain pitch, and we were on a certain pitch,” Blaylock said. “Gonzo and Eyrika executed the plan, and those who didn’t execute the plan, didn’t execute.”

Jones picked up her second loss on the day, but dropped her ERA from 1.90 entering Tuesday to 1.83.

SIU will play Bradley at 12 and 2 p.m. Saturday in Peoria.

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

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