Daily Egyptian

SIU completes Illinois State sweep behind Jones’ eighth shutout

By Sean Carley, @SCarleyDE

SIU softball finished off its first sweep of Illinois State since 2005 with a 5-0 victory, finishing off a perfect six-game home stand.

After winning games one and two of the series Friday, coach Kerri Blaylock said she wasn’t satisfied unless the team swept the Redbirds.

The win is SIU’s (20-8, 5-0 Missouri Valley Conference) eighth in a row and 12th in 13 games.

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“It’s the best feeling ever,” junior center fielder Merri Anne Patterson said of the sweep. “I wish we would have had the opportunity last weekend, against Loyola, but we’re feeling pretty good.”

Freshman pitcher Brianna Jones (15-3, 1.41 ERA) threw her second shutout in two days, holding the Redbirds to three hits and striking out just as many.

Jones put forth her case for MVC Pitcher of the Week with 16 2/3 scoreless innings, allowing just nine hits to her 10 strikeouts across her four appearances.

Her eight shutouts on the season tie her for the Division I lead with Florida Atlantic junior Kylee Hanson. No one else in the Missouri Valley Conference has more than two.

Jones’ 15 wins and 1.41 ERA also lead the conference.

Illinois State’s (9-21, 1-4 MVC) pitchers did not fare as well.

The Redbirds had to use three pitchers in the contest, each throwing two innings. 

Starting freshman Ali Domkuski (2-5, 4.92 ERA) took the loss after allowing three runs, two earned, while walking four.

The first run of the game came after a fielding error by Redbird third baseman Riley Hale allowed Patterson to reach base in the second. She then came around to score on a wild pitch.

A leadoff walk to junior first baseman Shaye Harre followed by a sophomore right fielder Jessica Heese double led to Domkuski being pulled in the third inning.

Senior Regan Romshek came on in relief and did not do much better, allowing two earned runs in her two innings among six hits.

Patterson doubled home Harre and a squeeze bunt from junior catcher Jessa Thomas scored two more in the third as the Salukis batted through the lineup.

Harre, who leads the team in batting average (.421), home runs (nine) and RBIs (30) led off the fourth with a towering home run over the Charlotte West Stadium scoreboard, adding to her career high. Her 30 RBIs tie her total from all of last season, and is 13 off of her career-high 43 from her freshman season.

The Nashville, Tenn.-native said she had hit some batting practice and fall season home runs over the scoreboard, but never in spring season.

She reached base on all four of her plate appearances in the game with two walks in additions to her two hits.

Illinois State sophomore pitcher Sarah Finck was the lone bright spot for the Redbirds’ pitching staff, giving up just one hit and striking out two in her time in the circle.

Overall, seven of the nine Saluki starters reached base at least once in the game.

This is the second year in a row that the Dawgs have gone through the first two MVC series undefeated, but Patterson said this season’s team has the ability to go farther.

“I can’t put into words how special this group is,” she said. “We’ve always said our pitching has got to get better, and we have it now. Our defense is just unreal … and that’s helping us on offense too.”

Despite the team being one game away from matching its win total from last season, Blaylock said it’s not the team’s record that’s the most impressive aspect of her squad.

“It’s not about the wins and losses right now,” she said. “It’s how they’re playing. They’re playing with a lot of confidence right now and that’s the difference. You’re going to lose some ball games … but it’s the confidence that’s carrying us.”

The Salukis will travel to Edwardsville on Wednesday to begin a eight-game road trip, taking on SIU-Edwardsville, before going to its first road series in Valley play next Saturday and Sunday at Drake.

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

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