Daily Egyptian

Sophomore ready to fill center field void

By Brent Meske, @brentmeskeDE

A center fielder is the outfield’s leader, and at the end of this season, the spot will be open.

Sophomore left fielder Merri Anne Patterson said she is ready to take over for senior center fielder Kalyn Harker.

“That’s the plan for right now,” Patterson said. “I am going to have to be able to communicate with my other fielders and be on top of my game every game.”

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To be successful, Patterson said communication with teammates is key to the position. She said she looks forward to a larger responsibility in center field and Harker has been helping her prepare for the transition.

Patterson — who has a career fielding percentage of .935 — started one game in center field this year on March 9.

Coach Kerri Blaylock said Patterson is next in line for the center field spot.

“She’s got speed, the arm and the presence,” she said. “She’ll be a good leader out there.”

Patterson has started 38 of SIU’s 40 games this year, 34 in left field, one in center and three in right field.

Blaylock said Patterson is one of the best outfielders in the Missouri Valley Conference, but her contribution comes from the offensive side of the ball as well. Patterson is currently No. 2 with a .303 batting average.

Harker said she is impressed with both sides of Patterson’s play.

“She goes up to the plate hacking and steps up in big moments,” she said. “She does the same in the outfield. She’s always there to make a big throw or big catch.”

Patterson started the season near the bottom of the lineup and has batted in holes six through nine in 17 games. The other 21 have been spent in spots three through five with 10 each in third and fifth.

On the season, Patterson is tied for the team lead with 6 home runs and is No. 2 with 58 total bases.

Two of Patterson’s home runs came on March 22 against Wichita State, a team high, along with her eight total bases in the game. Another two came as game-winning home runs, one a walk-off and one a go-ahead.

Patterson said her hitting has been her biggest improvement since last season.

Blaylock said the credit should be given to associate head coach Jen Sewell for making Patterson a more consistent hitter.

“It’s more of being steady,” she said. “Last year she was up-and-down, she’s way more consistent this year.”

Brent Meske can be reached at [email protected] or at 536-3311 ext. 269

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