Salukis softball looking to get back on track

By Gus Bode

Salukis seeking to bounce back from second straight late-inning loss

FACTOID:The softball team returns to action with a doubleheader against Southwest Missouri State Saturday in Springfield, Mo., starting at noon. The Salukis finish their three-game series against the Bears with a single game Sunday at noon.

The SIU softball team was riding a seven-game winning streak and tied for first place in the Missouri Valley Conference going into last weekend.

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A week later, the Salukis have lost three out of four and fallen to third.

SIU hopes to stop the freefall when it travels to Springfield, Mo., to take on fourth place Southwest Missouri State in a noon doubleheader on Saturday. The two teams finish off the three-game series with a single game Sunday at noon.

The Salukis’ 3-2 loss to Evansville Wednesday marked the second straight game they had dropped after having at least a two-run cushion going into the sixth inning.

While that fact may wear heavily on some teams’ minds, the Salukis (19-11, 6-3 MVC) think it just shows what they need to work on.

I don’t think it’ll mess with us, said junior pitcher Renee Mueller. I think we’ll just work harder on closing the games out with no runs being scored.

SIU head coach Kerri Blaylock isn’t feeling any extra pressure to win going into this weekend’s series with the Bears and feels her team is doing just fine despite the recent struggles.

You need a win just because you like to win, said Blaylock with a laugh. I’m not much into streaks and slumps and all that kind of stuff. I honestly think we played two good ballgames against two of the top teams in the conference and we happened to come up on the losing end.

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Blaylock believes the Salukis have had to face the toughest part of the conference schedule early and sees things turning for the better as the season wears on.

Winning the series against the Bears (15-13, 5-4 MVC) would be a good start, but Blaylock knows they are not going to be easy to knock off.

They had a very, very good preseason and they’ve had a couple of tough losses in conference, but I think they’re one of the better teams in the conference, Blaylock said. I think they’re in the top half of the conference, no question.

One thing in the Bears’ favor is that they have yet to lose a game this season at the SMS Softball Field, boasting a 5-0 record at home. On the other hand, SIU is 3-5 on the opponent’s home turf.

Blaylock said she knows any time you play against the Bears, they are going to know exactly what your weaknesses are and will be prepared to attack them.

You know when you play them they’re very well coached and you need to be ready for a battle, Blaylock said.

The players know SMS isn’t going to be a pushover, but they feel this series is important to how the remainder of the season turns out.

And, of course, rebuilding their confidence after a couple of tough losses wouldn’t hurt, either.

It’d be a turning point in the season to show us how good we really are, said freshman Kelly Creek. Mentally, it’ll help us from getting down on ourselves.

Reporter Jens Deju can be reached at [email protected]

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