Home again with something to prove

By Gus Bode

FACTOID:SIU softball players, parents and fans are planning a protest concerning the slow progress of constructing a new softball facility Saturday morning at 10 a.m. prior to the Salukis’ scheduled game with Western Kentucky University. The protest will feature petitioning and a rally.

The SIU softball team has already played 25 games this season. Only five of those games have been in the friendly confines of IAW Fields.

Well, the friendly part may be a stretch, but the Salukis are geared up to play at home and can expect some unfriendly visitors today through Saturday at the Saluki Invitational.


SIU (17-8) will also play Syracuse University Sunday at noon at IAW Fields in a game not part of the Saluki Invitational.

Every Saluki opponent has something to prove this weekend.

“A lot of these teams are kind of gunning for us,” freshman pitcher Katie Kloess said.

Especially the Salukis’ first opponent and conference foe, the University of Northern Iowa. On the Salukis’ recent 10-4 spring break trip, two victories came at the expense of Northern Iowa at the Missouri Invitational in Columbia, Mo., which the Salukis won.

Meanwhile, Western Kentucky University and Syracuse are first-year programs, so they have everything to prove.

And anyone who follows SIU softball knows when the Salukis and regional rival Southeast Missouri State University pair up, things tend to get a bit interesting.

In the past three seasons, SIU is 1-3 against SEMO in the Invitational, which includes SEMO’s heartbreaking 5-4 defeat of SIU last season, giving the Otahkians the Invitational championship.


The three losses were by a combined total of four runs. So, it’s safe to say that the Salukis have just as much to prove as any other team.

“It’s going to be a tough tournament and our goal, of course, is to win it,” Saluki head coach Kerri Blaylock said.

Offensively, the Salukis have been led by the hot bat of junior first baseman Netty Hallahan. Hallahan’s .310 average makes her the lone Saluki hitting over .300 for the season.

Junior pitcher/designated player Erin Stremsterfer (.286), who is tied with Hallahan for team leader in home runs with three, has been around the .300 mark all season, but after Stremsterfer the numbers drop substantially.

Junior center fielder and long-ball threat Marta Viefhaus is only hitting .250, senior second baseman Lori Greiner is at the .200 mark and junior third baseman Julie Meier stands at .186.

The Saluki bats did start to warm up over break and Blaylock thinks that trend will continue the more her ballclub sees live pitching.

“The more that they face pitching, the better they are going to be,” Blaylock said. “We took some pretty good cuts while we were gone (on spring break).”

If the Saluki bats catch fire, it could be a long weekend for the visiting opponents, as the Salukis’ stubborn pitching staff is allowing just under a run a game (0.96 ERA), while holding opposing hitters to a .174 average.

The Salukis won their only other home tournament, the Southern Classic, March 4-5, so a championship this weekend would make it a clean sweep for the season.

“We’re really hoping to come out and win this tournament,” Kloess said. “We won our other tournament already, so we’re hoping to make it two this year.”