Daily Egyptian

Saluki softball wins home opener against EIU

By Austin Miller, @AMiller_DE

The ball was flying out of Charlotte West Stadium during the Salukis first game of the Coach B Classic.

The Salukis (8-5) took their first lead of the game, 7-3, in the sixth inning and held on to beat Eastern Illinois (4-13) 8-6. The team improves to 14-3 in home openers under coach Kerri Blaylock, including five in a row.

A four-run sixth inning was capped for the Salukis on a two-RBI home run from junior outfielder Merri Ann Patterson, her second of the season.

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“Eastern really attacked offensively, but our kids just hung around and did what they were supposed to do,” coach Kerri Blaylock said. “I was really proud of our offense. We did a great job getting that win.”

The Salukis pushed EIU sophomore pitcher Michelle Rogers past the 100-pitch mark during the inning, making her throw 27. SIU worked three-straight full counts before Rogers was relieved by sophomore Jessica Wireman with two outs.

Freshman left fielder Eyrika Brandenburg followed Patterson’s homer with an RBI single and senior shortstop Kelsey Gonzalez plated her with an RBI single of her own.

Despite their lead heading into the penultimate inning, SIU had it anything but easy at the end.

EIU scored four runs in their half of the sixth.

Panther senior designated player Kylie Bennett had her third RBI of the game on a single in the sixth. Bennett had Saluki freshman pitcher Brianna Jones’ number throughout the game, hitting two solo home runs off the freshman earlier in the game. Bennett also homered in the team’s first game of the day, a 3-2 loss against the Kansas Jayhawks.

SIU senior designated player Caylee Cook followed Patterson’s lead, adding an insurance run for the Salukis on a solo home run, her first since 2014. Cook now stands as three career dingers and her seven RBIs this season is a career-high.

“Caylee is seeing the ball so well right now,” Blaylock said. “She’s had big RBIs and she’s settled in right behind Shaye [Harre].”

Jones gave up a season-high six runs, with five strikeouts. She moves to 6-2 on the season.

“She doesn’t let a lot of stuff bother her, so when she’s giving up hits like that, she can just settle in and just ride it out and let her offense get going,” Blaylock said.

The Salukis play their second game of the Coach B Classic against Butler at 4:30 Saturday at Charlotte West Stadium.

Austin Miller can be reached at [email protected]

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