Saluki softball splits opening day doubleheader

By Sean Carley, @SCarleyDE

SIU softball (1-1) opened its season Friday, splitting its doubleheader in Day One of the Lion Classic in Hammond, La.

The Salukis came away with a win against Tennessee-Martin and a loss to Nicholls State.

“I felt like we had great pitching today, we played well defensively and we hit the ball hard,” coach Kerri Blaylock said. 

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Game one was a morning matinee that featured two freshmen coming up with big contributions in their first collegiate games.

Freshman pitcher Brianna Jones tossed a complete game shutout in the Dawgs 3-0 victory over the UT-Martin Skyhawks.

“She’s just a competitor,” Blaylock said. “It did not surprise me that she did well.”

She finished with five strikeouts while surrendering six hits and no walks. The Skyhawks were limited to two hits in 11 at-bats with runners on base.

“I just wasn’t thinking at all,” Jones said. “I know that sounds bad, but I just focused in on the game.”

Freshman outfielder Eyrika Brandenburg opened the scoring for SIU with an RBI single after Skyhawk pitcher Brooke Kennedy walked the bases loaded. 

Junior outfielder Merri Anne Patterson brought home a second run the next at-bat with a sacrifice fly to bring home sophomore infielder Savannah Fisher.

Two runs would be all the Salukis needed, but they added an insurance run in the top of the seventh and this time Fisher hit the sacrifice to score freshman utility player Hanna Stam.

UT-Martin opened the bottom of the seventh with two singles, but Jones closed the door quickly with a lineout and a double play to seal her closeout win.

“I wasn’t worried really,” she said. “Coach just came out and told me I have a three-run lead. So I just didn’t want to give up the home run. I just wanted to get each girl out.”

Game two saw the Dawgs have the issues UT-Martin had earlier in the day, picking up the season’s first loss against Nicholls State, 2-0.

Sophomore pitcher Savanna Dover was unhittable in both the good and the bad sense of the word accumulating 10 strikeouts and five walks in her complete game loss.

“I just focused on going all in,” she said. “I’ve been trying to do that every time I pitched.”

Dover said the 10 strikeouts are not a career high. She got 21 in high school, while still picking up the loss because of an error in the outfield. 

She is the first pitcher since Brittany Lang in 2013 to record 10 or more strikeouts in a game.

SIU went just 1-8 with runners on in the game.

“We did not adjust in the second game offensively,” Blaylock said. “There are some things we need to work out on offense, but they had only seen live pitching four times before today, so it’ll work itself out.”

Nicholls State scored its first run in the second after Colonel third baseman Haley Stevenson stole second and was brought home on outfielder Jessica Taylor’s single.

The Colonels added a run in the fourth on a Taylor sacrifice fly.

Saluki freshmen Hanna Stam and Hanna Porter both recorded hits in their first career at-bats.

“It shows the quality of the class we brought in this year,” Blaylock said. “These girls are ready to compete right now and can compete right now.”

SIU will be back in action with another doubleheader with games 12 p.m. Saturday against Mississippi Valley State and 2:30 p.m. against host school Southeastern Louisiana.

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

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