Softball ends, careers begin for seniors

By Brent Meske, @brentmeskeDE

Editor’s note: The following is the first of a three-part series detailing the next steps for the Saluki softball senior class. 

Diamonds last forever, but diamond dreams often last only four years.

Outfielders Meredith Wilson and Kara Kimball, both majoring in marketing, will hang up their cleats after the final Saluki game of the season and move on.

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Wilson said having the same major allows them to help each other in the job searching process.

“We always joke that we spend too much time together,” she said. “We have had a majority of our classes together, which has been really nice.”

Wilson, a native of Granite City, said she will move to St. Louis after graduation in pursuit of a marketing job. Kimball said she is looking for a job in sales as well as marketing, but nothing has come up yet.

Kimball said when she looks back on her time at SIU, she will remember playing in the conference championship game her freshman year. For Wilson, it will be the life lessons of dealing with adversity, failure, success and a team atmosphere.

Wilson and Kimball said the relationships they have built with teammates will be one of their favorite memories.

“We do a pretty good job of not getting on each other’s nerves,” Kimball said. “We’re basically together all the time with practices, games and traveling. Everyone enjoys being around each other and getting to know each other beyond softball.”

The seniors have not just bonded with teammates, but also with their coaches.

Kimball said it is a bond other athletes might not get with their coaches.

“Coaches sometimes just want the players for four years and then, ‘Oh yeah you are done,’” she said. “That’s not the way with the coaches we have.”

Coach Kerri Blaylock said their work ethic not only made them better softball players, but will make them successful professionals as well.

“They’re those type of people that give everything they have,” she said. “They spend extra time hitting and doing the little things that they need to to get better.”

Both players came to SIU in the summer of 2011, but Kimball came as a walk-on.

Blaylock said Kimball is one of her favorite walk-ons of all time, and she has earned a scholarship through her efforts on the field.

“She does everything the right way and works really hard,” she said. “She understands the concept of what a good teammate is.”

In her career, Kimball has been used primarily as a pinch runner, and has only 1 hit in 14 career at-bats for a batting average of .071. By pinch running, she has scored 60 runs in 162 career games played.

Wilson played right away for the Salukis and has started 158 of her 177 games played through four years. This season, Wilson is batting .208 with three home runs, 6 runs scored and 7 runs batted in.

Blaylock said Wilson has played much better since she returned on April 3, from an ankle injury — which occurred on March 21 against Wichita State.

“I thought she was slumping a little at the plate but the time off has helped her,” she said. “She still doesn’t have great mobility but for hitting I think she’s come back stronger.”

Before the injury, Wilson was batting .157 with eight hits in 21 games. After missing six games, she is batting .350 with seven hits through 10 games played.

The Salukis have 11 games remaining before MVC Tournament, which begins May 7 in Wichita, Kan.

Check next week for a story featuring senior pitchers Katie Bertelsen and Alyssa Wunderlich. 

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

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