Daily Egyptian

Salukis split Day Two of USF UnderArmour Invitational

By Brent Meske, @brentmeskeDE

Two near-perfect pitching performances saw SIU split Day Two of the USF UnderArmour Invitational.

In the first game, freshman pitcher Nicole Doyle (1-0, 3.39 ERA) recorded SIU’s 29th no-hitter in her first collegiate start  securing a 5-0 win against Hartford (2-15).

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“I don’t care who you are, a no hitter is special,” coach Kerri Blaylock said. “She threw fantastic today. She had all her pitches working and had great command.”

The second game had strong pitching performances by each side as East Carolina (16-11) edged SIU (12-8) 1-0 on a solo home run in the fifth.

Doyle finished with seven strikeouts, including four of the first eight batters, and one walk through 22 batters faced. She lost the perfect game after 5.1 innings when she allowed a five-pitch walk to sophomore designated player Bianca Ross.

She said she wasn’t thinking about the no-hitter during the game and wasn’t aware of it until the end when someone congratulated her.

The no-no was SIU’s first since Danielle Glosson and the Dawgs beat Evansville 9-1 in five innings on April 26, 2011. Of the 29 no-hitters, 21 have happened with coach Kerri Blaylock at the helm.

“I don’t know if you can really compare one to the other,” Blaylock said. “She threw extremely well, she’s going to compete and give you 100 percent every time.”

Doyle is the first SIU freshman to throw a no-hitter since Carisa Winters threw four in her freshman season in 1997 in a five-inning win against Saint Louis.

Blaylock said she can’t remember seeing another no-hitter in someone’s collegiate debut.

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Hartford came into the game batting .245 as a team and had three players batting .300 or better, including senior catcher Sawyer Fried, who was batting .357 before the game. She finished 0-3 with two strikeouts.

SIU started the scoring early, adding runs in the first and second innings. The score stayed 2-0 until the sixth when junior center fielder Merri Anne Patterson hit a three-run homerun to add insurance for Doyle and the Dawgs.

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Hartford’s freshman starting pitcher Melissa Pereira (0-1, 6.75 ERA) pitched six innings, allowing five runs on seven hits and one walk. She struck out sophomore third baseman Sydney Jones for all three punch outs of her game.

The Salukis finished 3-8 with runners in scoring position and batted .304 as a team in the game that lasted only 90 minutes.

The second game pitted SIU freshman Brianna Jones (9-3, 1.56 ERA) against ECU junior Lydia Ritchie (9-3, 1.51 ERA). Jones entered with a nation-high six shutouts and Ritchie exited with the same amount.

“It was a great pitcher’s duel,” Blaylock said. “I knew it would be a great game. I felt like we competed and had great energy.”

Ritchie got the win with seven innings pitched, allowing two hits and two walks while striking out 10. Jones allowed six hits, one run, one walk and one wild pitch while fanning three in six innings of work. They entered with 79 and 60 strikeouts this season, respectively.

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Hits were hard to come by in the game, as the Salukis scratched out two and the Pirates recorded six. But it wasn’t for a lack of trying.

SIU worked the count against Ritchie often in the game, forcing her to throw 123 pitches.

“We had really good at bats,” Blaylock said. “Brianna kept us in the game. It was just one pitch that a kid got ahold of for a homerun.”

Jones worked out of two jams in the third and fourth innings.

A single and an error by freshman left fielder Eryika Brandenburg allowed the first two Pirate batters to reach in the third with no outs.

In the fourth, back-to-back singles from sophomore third baseman Karlie Smith and senior designated player Kelsi Briggs put runners at first and second with one out.

SIU got its first baserunner in the fifth when junior catcher Jessa Thomas singled with two outs, but she was stranded. Ritchie had struck out seven and walked two to that point.

ECU took the momentum as junior right fielder Ciara Ervin sent the second pitch she saw over the right field wall for a leadoff, solo homerun.

The Dawgs threatened again as senior shortstop Kelsey Gonzalez bunted for a leadoff single and advanced to second on a throwing error by Ritchie. The pitcher responded with a strikeout, lineout and groundout to silence the SIU bats.

“Sometimes you break through, and sometimes you don’t,” Blaylock said. “We’re a really young team and hopefully this will prepare us for the future.”

The Salukis close out the invitational with an 8 a.m. game Sunday against Butler. They split the previous two meetings against the Bulldogs, both by slaughter rule, last weekend at the Coach B Classic.

Brent Meske can be reached at [email protected] or at 536-3333.

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