Salukis look to get offensive against MVC

By Gus Bode

SIU softball team, armed with new offense and new stadium, opens season in Florida

SIU softball pitcher Amy Harre was warming up with junior catcher Adie Viefhaus on the floor of Davie Gymnasium on Wednesday afternoon.

Head coach Kerri Blaylock was doing a television interview 20 feet behind her star pitcher while some of Harre and Viefhaus’ teammates were talking to newspaper reporters off to the side.


Harre went into her usual windup and fired a pitch that sailed past Viefhaus, hit the wall behind her and ricocheted all the way back down the gym floor, almost hitting Blaylock as she answered the interviewers questions.

Ah, the return of Wild Thing.

And with the return of Wild Thing, the Saluki softball team also returns for a new season, which gets underway today at the Triple Crown Invitational in St. Augustine, Fla.

The Salukis have high expectations for this season, as does the rest of the Missouri Valley Conference. SIU was picked to finish third in the preseason poll behind Illinois State and Evansville. Rounding out the poll were Creighton, Southwest Missouri State, Wichita State, Northern Iowa, Drake, Bradley and Indiana State.

Viefhaus said her and her teammates can’t wait to get out on the field and just get things started.

“We’re so excited to get outside and out of this gym,” Viefhaus said. “We just can’t wait. I probably won’t sleep at all, but that’s all right.”

The current players on the roster will also cause several of SIU’s opponents to lose sleep as well.


Last season the Salukis boasted the best pitching staff in the MVC and won the ERA title for the sixth straight year with a mark of 1.23.

The ace of the staff was Harre, who was named to the preseason All-MVC First Team. She finished her freshman season with an 18-9 record with a 0.89 ERA and 169 strikeouts. The other pitchers are seniors Renee Mueller (8-5, 1.01 ERA) and Katie Kloess (5-3, 2.90 ERA).

Equally as strong as the Salukis’ pitching was their defensive play. Players such as departed senior Tahira Saafir and current junior third baseman Haley Viefaus made near impossible plays look routine.

The lone weakness was offense.

SIU had to sweat out 1-0 and 2-1 victories all season because the offense never came around the way the team hoped it would. This year, thanks to some new offensive weapons, the Salukis think they have remedied that problem.

The most notable addition is shortstop Jenny Doehring who was the Ohio Valley Conference Player of the Year at Southeast Missouri State before transferring to SIU last season. She had to sit out last season due to transfer rules but took advantage of the time to heal up from some nagging shoulder injuries.

Her sophomore season at SEMO, Doehring hit .319 and led the team in runs, walks, triples, homeruns and RBI’s. She was also a solid pitcher as she posted a 15-10 record with a 2.36 ERA and 90 strikeouts.

Doehring said it was hard to describe her emotions as she prepares to play in her first real game in over a year.

“It’s overwhelming,” Doehring said. “I’m trying to harness it but I’m definitely excited, pumped up and ready to go for that first game.”

Other key newcomers include junior Lindsey Bonnell and freshmen Katie Louis, Samantha Carter, Andrea Hylla and Lauren Roney.

The new Salukis already showed they can hit at this level during the fall season as Doehring hit .330 with 12 RBIs, Bonnell hit .375 and swiped a team-high four bases, Louis hit .433 with three home runs and Carter ended up with a .295 average.

This newfound offensive clout should make the Salukis one of the most feared teams in the MVC.

“Our defense and pitching, it’s always been there. The thing that we have struggled with in the past is having consistency throughout the lineup,” Doehring said. “We’ve got people up and down the lineup that can put the ball in play … I think that’s the key for us. A good hitting team is consistent all the way up and down the lineup. You don’t have any holes.”

All the newcomers along with a senior class of just three players in Mueller, Kloess and Kendra Moore mean the Salukis are left with a relatively young team. This is something Blaylock is looking forward to.

“I think what makes it not so scary is because our veterans have some very good leaders and they’ve kind of instructed the younger ones on what we need to do,” Blaylock said. “I also think our sophomores don’t play like sophomores. To me they’re playing like juniors and seniors so I don’t really think it’s worrisome.”

Adie Viefhaus said while the team will miss the leadership of players like Saafir, Karri Fortman and Jen Guenther, the majority of the players on the team have the same natural instincts to lead as the departed seniors did.

“Most of the girls on this team have always been leaders on their teams growing up,” she said. “I think everyone leads and everyone’s done their little part.”

Besides all the new faces, Saluki fans have something else to look forward to – the opening of their long-awaited new stadium.

The new field will have chair back and stadium seating and will hold 500 fans. Other features include lights, large dugouts, a training room, full-size lockers in a carpeted locker room, a coaches office, two batting cages, a concession area, restrooms, an irrigation system, laundry facilities and an elevated pressbox.

“I’m one of those people who believes that if the kids are dressed nice and they’re in a good field you feel like you’re worth something and you play like a champion,” Blaylock said. “And I think that they’re just as excited as can be about it,”

The players are equally excited and some like Harre said they drive by the stadium on a daily basis to see the progress. Other said they’re just ready to play on the field because they’re been looking at it for so long but haven’t been able to set foot on the turf yet.

“It’s kind of like a tease right now,” Haley Viefhaus said. “We just can’t wait to actually get out there and be able to play on it because it’s just been such a dream for our team for so long and now we have the facility.”

Reporter Jens Deju can be reached at [email protected]