Softball: Salukis face big test

By Gus Bode

The No. 24 Salukis are in for a challenging weekend at the NFCA Leadoff Classic in Columbus, Ga. Every team they will face made it to last year’s NCAA Tournament. SIU will take on North Carolina on Friday at 1:30 p.m.

SIU softball coach Kerri Blaylock said this is an important weekend for the team.

“It’s one of the most prestigious tournaments in the country,” Blaylock said. “You want to play and get a few victories.”

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SIU’s first opponent, the North Carolina Tar Heels, received preseason top 25 votes for the USA Today/NFCA poll and has high expectations. North Carolina won a school record 48 games last year and has 16 returning letterwinners.

“We take the same approach to everyone, we play Saluki softball.” – Amanda Clifton

North Carolina started out the season with a rocky 4-5 record including a loss to No. 1 Tennessee.

The Salukis have plenty of weapons to counter North Carolina. The Salukis are 8-2 this season with a win over Louisiana State, the No. 8 team in the nation.

The Salukis are led by catcher Amanda Clifton and pitcher Cassidy Scoggins, who was recently drafted by National Pro Fastpitch softball team Rockford Thunder.

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Clifton said the team does not care who they play.

“We will face some of the best (teams) in the country,” Clifton said. “We take the same approach to everyone, we play Saluki softball.”

SIU had help from freshman outfielder Katie Wilson in the win over Louisiana State. Wilson has three home runs and seven RBI in 10 games this season.

Blaylock said the Salukis have prepared all week for the game against North Carolina.

“We had a very spirited practice,” Blaylock said. “They understand the importance of practicing well.”

SIU will play No. 13 Michigan on Saturday. They will also have to face two difficult opponents in Auburn and Hofstra.

Blaylock said the tournament could be tough, but that won’t affect the team.

“The kids believe in themselves,” Blaylock said. “We just need to be consistent.”

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