Softball Superlatives

By Brent Meske, @brentmeskeDE

The Saluki softball team finished fifth in the Missouri Valley Conference this season and plays its first tournament game Thursday in Wichita, Kan.

Here are my 2015 Saluki Softball awards:

Most Valuable Player: Kalyn Harker, CF, Senior

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This award is no contest. Not only did Harker win the MVC batting title with a .466 average in Valley games, she finished with a team high in batting average, runs, hits and doubles.

Harker was deadly in the batter’s box and lethal in the outfield. As a center fielder, Harker was responsible for running the show, and she did. Harker has the speed to track down most balls in the gaps and her glove is responsible enough to make the catch. Harker had only 2 errors in 46 games started.

Offensively, look for the returning Salukis to step up in her absence. Defensively, sophomore left fielder Merri Anne Patterson is the clear choice to switch to center. 

Offensive Player of the Year: Merri Anne Patterson, LF, Sophomore

While Harker built a great season, Patterson was second with a .321 batting average.

Not only did she finish second in runs, hits and doubles, she was top-5 in doubles, home runs and RBIs. She led the team with a .534 slugging percentage and tied for the team lead with 70 total bases.

Patterson was also an integral part of the Salukis calling themselves the comeback kids. On March 21, Patterson hit a solo home run in the sixth inning giving SIU a 4-3 win. On April 4, Patterson hit a go-ahead double in the seventh to put SIU ahead for a 4-2 win.

Co-Defensive Players of the Year: Kalyn Harker and Merri Anne Patterson

It’s only fair to split the defensive award between the left fielder and center fielder who kept runners from taking liberties all year long.

Patterson shut down runners hoping to tag up or stretch an extra base hit with her canon disguised as a right arm. Meanwhile, Harker used speed to track down more fly balls than most would have.

Breakout Player: Sydney Jones, C/3B, Freshman

Coaches always say their recruits are the next best thing for the program but coach Kerri Blaylock was not kidding about Jones.  She finished the season fifth on the team with a .268 batting average.

It was few-and-far-between Jones did not contribute offensively and she was a solid bet to connect bat to ball every game. 

Jones played two of the most difficult positions on the field well, and was one of two Salukis to start all 47 games.

Most Underrated: Brook Womack, 3B/SS, Sophomore

Womack is a player easy to forget about because she is quietly consistent. She started 43 games and played in all but two this year batting .250 with 15 runs, 12 extra base hits and 19 RBIs.

Defensively, Womack had 8 errors, a stat she needs to improve going forward. That is not to say she was disappointing however, as she made unexpected plays through the year.

If Womack keeps batting well and betters her defense, she will be a steady fixture in the Saluki lineup for upcoming seasons.

Dual-Threat: Shaye Harre, 1B/P, Sophomore

Not only did Harre have the third best batting average on the team — .292 — she was a fixture at first base and in the pitcher’s circle.

Harre often launches home runs well over the right field wall in practice. It is just batting practice, but the promise it shows is intriguing.

If Harre can wait on her pitch next year, she’ll hit far more than the 5 home runs she had this season.

With senior pitcher Katie Bertelsen graduating, look for more of Harre in the circle in the upcoming seasons.

Comeback of the Year: Meredith Wilson, RF, Senior

Wilson made the best of a bad situation this season coming back from a March 21 ankle injury. She batted .157 before injury and .333 after returning April 3, finishing the year with a .235 batting average.

I would not have given an award to Wilson before the injury, but her comeback and turn-around made her deserving.

Projected lineup for next season.

1. Kelsey Gonzalez, SR, SS

2. Merri Anne Patterson, JR, CF

3. Sydney Jones, SO, C

4. Shaye Harre, JR, 1B

5. Brook Womack, JR, 3B

6. Lacey Newbold, SR, 2B

7. Savannah Fisher, SO, LF

8. Jessica Heese, SO, RF

9. Jessa Thomas, JR, DP

Starting Pitcher: Savanna Dover, SO

Bench: Taylor Harris, JR, 1B and Caylee Cook, SR, UTIL plus incoming freshmen

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