Salukis head to Evansville to reverse recent MVC losing trend

By Gus Bode

Following a disappointing series loss to Wichita State this past weekend, which also cost SIU first place in the Missouri Valley Conference, the Salukis did not take long to regroup.

SIU came out Monday night and defeated Big Twelve Conference member Kansas 5-3 in 10 innings on the road to quickly erase the bitter taste left behind by the Wichita State series.

Now, when they travel to Evansville, Ind., for a 5 p.m. game at Cooper Stadium tonight against MVC-foe Evansville, the Salukis will get a chance to get back on track in league play. SIU has lost four of its last five MVC games after starting out 10-1 in the league.

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The Salukis have 10 MVC games remaining, meaning the time to correct any remaining kinks is running out.

“There’s so many good teams in our conference that you’re going to lose one here and there and granted it’s not what we want, but sometimes it happens,” SIU junior outfielder Katie Jordan said. “I think the best thing we can do is just bounce back and get as many wins as we can from here on out.”

Despite standing at 32-14 overall, the Purple Aces have been struggling as of late, losing eight of their last 13 games. Evansville’s 7-9 MVC mark has the Purple Aces sitting in seventh place in the conference standings.

“They actually are having kind of a bad time of it right now,” SIU head coach Kerri Blaylock said. “They’ve really fallen on hard times in conference play and dropped a lot of games they shouldn’t have dropped. But it’s no indication of how good they are. They’ve just been struggling a little bit offensively and that’s what happens.”

Evansville’s recent struggles are not something the Salukis think will give them an edge going into the game.

A year ago, SIU smoked the Purple Aces 8-0 in the game played in Carbondale.

Evansville bounced back and won two of three games against SIU, including an 8-0 beating that knocked the Salukis out of the MVC tournament.

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“They always play us tough, it doesn’t matter how good or bad they’re doing or how good or bad we’re doing,” Jordan said.

This will mark the third meeting between the two teams this season.

SIU swept a two-game midweek series April 7 by scores of 8-0 and 2-0. The Salukis held the Purple Aces to just four hits in the two games, while SIU slugged 10 hits in the two wins.

But that alone does not satisfy SIU. The Salukis want more.

“We’d like to get the sweep,” Blaylock said. “We’ve already won the series. We’ve already taken two from them, but we want to get that sweep.”

The pitching duo of Casey Clutch and Katie Markle has been solid for Evansville this season.

Clutch is 14-6 with an ERA of 1.51 and has 79 strikeouts in 138.2 innings pitched. Markle is 15-5 with an ERA of 1.85 with 143 strikeouts in 125 innings pitched.

But in the earlier series against the Salukis, it simply was not their day.

In just 3.1 innings, Markle, the sister of SIU baseball player Josh Markle, was torched for seven runs on five hits. She also walked three batters.

Clutch did a much better job, allowing just four hits in her start, but still took the loss for Evansville.

Evansville’s hitting will also be looking to have a better showing.

The Purple Aces best player, shortstop Jamie Davison, had just three at-bats, going 0-2 and walking in her lone at-bat of the second game.

“I know that they’re going to be ready for us,” SIU junior pitcher Amy Harre said. “Clutch and Markle will be ready to throw it at us and the hitters will be the exact same way.

“They’d like to beat us at least once this year.”

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