SIU clips Redbirds’ wings

By Gus Bode

Softball sweeps ISU, extends win streak to 11

The SIU softball team roared back into conference play by sweeping Illinois State in three games, but it was by no means an easy task.

Lengthening their eight-game winning streak to 11 in a row, the Salukis used their usual repertoire of weapons to dismantle ISU – opportunistic slugging and potent pitching.

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Amy Harre continued to increase her school-record win tally to 74 with her victory in the final game Sunday afternoon. The senior’s complete game one-hit performance capped off a difficult series for SIU.

“We have never swept them up here,” said SIU head coach Kerri Blaylock. “We just played tremendous.”

In a continuation of a low-scoring weekend, goose eggs dotted the scoreboard Sunday until the fourth inning when the Salukis (28-8, 8-1 Missouri Valley) finally notched a run. Senior Katie Jordan led off the inning with a deep shot to center field to give SIU a 1-0 lead. It was her sixth homer of the season and the 31st of her career.

The Redbirds (21-9, 5-4 MVC) seemed poised to strike immediately afterward when Harre walked the first two batters. A sacrifice grounder to first advanced them into dangerous scoring position, but Harre locked them down.

Following a quick groundout to Harre and a swinging strikeout later, the Salukis escaped from the fifth inning unscathed.

“Amy was really poised today,” Blaylock said. “She was in her zone that I didn’t want to talk to her.”

The close call seemed to spur the Salukis, and they sealed the deal in the sixth inning with an additional two runs.

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Jordan walked to lead off and then reached second on a wild pitch. The errant throw only shortened her jog home when senior Maria Damico belted her eighth home run of the season to right field, giving the Salukis a 3-0 edge.

That is where things would stand.

Harre ended the game with two more strikeouts – to bring her total to nine -and a forced grounder to junior Katie Louis at third.

By no means an easy game, Sunday’s contest was probably the most carefree time of the weekend.

Sophomore Cassidy Scoggins struck out a career-high 13 batters in a complete-game performance to lead the Salukis to a narrow 2-1 victory in Saturday’s second game.

While Scoggins dominated on the mound, it did look as if Illinois State would take an early lead in the first. Scoggins beaned the first Redbird batter, and then ISU’s Kate Stake hit a single. A sacrifice moved them into scoring position with two outs, but Scoggins pitched her way out of it with two strikeouts.

“She had trouble with them last year,” Blaylock said. “But I think when you throw with confidence, you’re going to be in good shape.”

The Salukis took a 2-0 lead in the third off two hits and two errors, but it was cut in half when Scoggins gave up her first home run of the year to Randi Patton the next inning.

After that, Scoggins retired the next 11 of 14 batters while striking out the side in the fifth to regain the upper hand and seal the deal.

The first game of Saturday’s doubleheader had the Salukis playing catch-up with the Redbirds.

ISU jumped out with a solo home run off Harre in the first inning to take a 1-0 lead it would hold until the fifth inning. The Salukis evened things back up when freshman Chelsea Petty hit a two-out shot to right field.

SIU then took its first lead of the game in the next inning. Junior Lauren Roney singled with one out and then moved to second from a sacrifice by senior Kelly Creek. Jordan then drove Roney in with an RBI single to give the Salukis a 2-1 lead.

Freshman Lauren Haas widened the gap to 3-1 in the seventh inning with her second homer of her career, a two-out solo shot.

The sweep of the Redbirds was SIU’s first since the Valley went to three-game series in 2001.

“I told them I was done cheering and done with the pep talks,” Blaylock said. “It was time for them to step up.”

Reporter Gabe House can be reached at [email protected]

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