Salukis look to keep Big Ten streak

By Gus Bode

Success against Big Ten conference opponents has been common for the SIU softball team in recent years.

The Salukis will look to continue that winning tradition today as they face the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana with a doubleheader beginning at 3 p.m.

In the past two seasons, the Salukis are 4-1 against Big Ten schools with two wins coming this season against Minnesota in the Jacksonville University Tournament Feb. 9.

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Coach Kerri Blaylock said she needs the Salukis (26-22, 12-8) to remain focused going into today’s game and final Missouri Valley Conference series, especially because of the chaos that surrounds the week before final exams.

“They’ve got a lot of things with finals going on, not just a midweek (game). It’s a pride factor too,” Blaylock said.

The Salukis, however, don’t take their exams lightly as they were ranked second in the country in overall grade point average among the National Fastpitch Coaches Association last season.

But Blaylock said there is a bit of an in-state rivalry with the two teams and said the Salukis will look to gather some momentum from the match.

Coming off an MVC series win against Missouri State that put them third in the MVC standings, the Salukis will look to extend their win streak going into their final weekend of regular season play.

Senior center fielder Krystal Stein said the competitiveness between the two teams makes the match enjoyable and something to look forward to before the final stretch of conference play.

“We don’t really have anything to lose,” Stein said. “We can go out there just like we’ve been playing and we’ll be fine this week.”

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Stein said momentum from winning a non-conference doubleheader is key, and if pitching and offense stay consistent the Salukis will get the edge.

Even though Blaylock said she expected the influx of youth to cause road bumps throughout the season, injuries led to inconsistencies and more losses than expected.

The team hasn’t had 22 losses since 2000 when they didn’t make the NCAA tournament and finished sixth in the MVC.

Blaylock said the team talked about eight games that it let slip away and how those potential wins could have made them contenders for an at-large bid in the NCAA Tournament.

“It could be a totally different year, and that’s the sad fact of it,” Blaylock said. “But you can’t get back the past. You can only work on the future.”

After today’s doubleheader, the Salukis will travel to Peoria to take on Bradley in their final regular season MVC series. They will open play with a doubleheader at noon and 2 p.m. and close the series with a single game Sunday at noon.

Megan Kramper can be reached at

536-3311 ext. 256 or

[email protected]

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