Daily Egyptian

Saluki softball sweeps MVC-opening doubleheader

By Sean Carley, @SCarleyDE

It took a while, but the Saluki softball offense showed up again Saturday.

After scoring 14 runs Wednesday against Saint Louis, SIU rode that momentum to a sweep of its Missouri Valley Conference-opening doubleheader against Loyola. 

In what is almost becoming routine, freshman Brianna Jones (12-3, 1.69 ERA) picked up a win and junior first baseman Shaye Harre hit another home run in the early game.

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Despite Harre’s home run, the first game of the afternoon required a bit of dramatics: a walk-off home run by sophomore utility player Jessica Heese, her second four-bagger on the year.

Heese’s home run came in extra innings to secure a 4-3 win.

“I just wanted to hit the ball hard and get something going so we can score,” she said. “I wasn’t going for the fences but it happened anyway.”

The Platte City, Mo., native came into the week with zero career home runs and now has a grand slam and a walk-off.

The first four innings were a pitchers duel as the teams combined for six hits through the first four frames. Then the bats woke up.

Saluki batters responded to Loyola’s score in the top of the fifth with three runs of their own in the bottom of the inning. Sophomore infielder Sydney Jones singled home senior shortstop Kelsey Gonzalez, then Harre hit her two-run home run in the next at-bat.

SIU (16-8, 2-0 MVC) is 5-1 in games when Harre hits a home run. She upped her already career-high home run tally to seven on the year.

Loyola crawled back with one run in the sixth and seventh innings to force extras.

Brianna responded with a scoreless eighth before Heese closed out the game.

“She made [giving up the runs] a little more serious than it was,” coach Kerri Blaylock said. “She doesn’t do well when she’s serious. It was her first conference game and she got jacked up in the middle. It was huge for her to throw up a zero to where we could come back and score in the eighth.” 

She threw 135 pitches to earn her 12th win on the year with nine strikeouts in the process.

SIU’s strong offense carried over early into the second game of the afternoon, but sophomore pitcher Savanna Dover was the story.

The Salukis tallied six hits in the first inning to score four runs and Sydney added to the tally with a second-inning home run to make it 5-0 SIU.

Harre’s two first-inning RBIs were her team-high 26th and 27th on the season.

The five runs were more than enough as Dover (3-5, 4.04 ERA) pitched her second career shutout — her first seven-inning shutout — and the team’s ninth on the season overall.

“I felt really confident and I knew I just needed to go out there and just trust myself,” she said. 

Dover needed just 105 pitches to strike out six across the seven frames. She gave up four hits with one walk.

Loyola (16-8, 0-2 MVC) went hitless in 12 at-bats with runners on.

“I honestly don’t think about [when runners are on],” Dover said. “I just keep trying to throw strikes and get ground balls and whatever happens, happens.”

Across her last three starts, Dover has pitched 17.2 innings giving up two runs, striking out 20. Her ERA has dropped nearly a run and a half from 5.33 to 4.04 in that time.

SIU will go for the series sweep against the Ramblers at 1 p.m. Sunday at Charlotte West Stadium.

Sean Carley can be reached at [email protected] or at 618-536-3304.

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