Softball Dawgs down, but never out

By Brent Meske, @brentmeskeDE

The Saluki softball team has a flare for drama this season with nine of its 13 victories coming in the last at-bat.

Coach Kerri Blaylock said she has never had a team like this in her 25-year coaching career.

SIU came from behind in four of five victories in a six-game winning streak beginning with both March 15 victories against Bradley. The Salukis won game one 2-1 by scoring both runs in the bottom of the sixth inning.

Advertisement

“I think in that one week, we had more comebacks than I’ve had in my career,” she said.

SIU then won game two 10-9 by erasing three deficits in 10 innings. The win was capped off by two-run walk-off home run by freshman catcher Sydney Jones .

Blaylock said it was the best comeback she’s ever been part of.

Associate head coach Jen Sewell said mounting a comeback is about controlling the momentum.

“If you can hold a bases loaded situation to one run, the momentum will flip to you,” she said. “With a lot of young players [on the team], we tell people to be tough and stick in there and give ourselves a shot.”

In the next series, SIU swept Wichita State with three walk-off hits, two by sophomore left fielder Merri Anne Patterson. She hit a go-ahead home run in the sixth inning of game one and a walk-off home run in game three.

Patterson said she sees herself as a clutch hitter and the last at bat is about waiting on a certain pitch.

“Usually pitchers will have a sequence all game,” she said. “I know what’s coming and I wait for my pitch.”

SIU has outscored opponents by 20 runs—with 55 total—in the sixth and seventh innings but is being outscored by 85 runs overall.

Blaylock said the team needs to score earlier and take out the need for comeback victories.

“We want comfortable, bigger leads,” she said. “We have not been able to do that recently… hopefully we can get out to bigger leads and not be under the pressure to do that.”

Through 35 games, SIU is being outscored 105 to 49 in the first three innings and has led in 58 innings while trailing in 130.

Patterson said having a tendency to come back in games has boosted the team confidence.

“We’re never out of the game,” she said. “There’s never a moment where we think we can’t come back.”

The year of the comebacks began on Feb. 6—just two games into the season—in a 3-2 victory against the University of Maryland, Baltimore County.

It took SIU 12 games—including three victories—to finally win a non-comeback game on March 8 against Northern Illinois in a 3-2 victory.

The Salukis have overcome four four-run deficits this year, something Patterson did not think the team would be capable of.

“We did not expect to come back from any games,” she said. “But we started hitting the ball and it opened our eyes that we can come back.”

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

Advertisement