Salukis sweep Shockers; move to 6-0 in MVC

By Brent Meske, @brentmeskeDE

SIU softball (11-10-1, 6-0) continued its impressive start to the Missouri Valley Conference schedule after sweeping Wichita State (16-15, 1-5) and winning its seventh straight series against the Shockers.

On Saturday, coach Kerri Blaylock earned wins No. 550 and 551 behind senior pitcher Katie Bertelsen’s fourth and fifth win of the season. Bertelsen has been the winning pitcher in all six SIU conference victories this season.

In game one of the series, the Salukis wasted no time getting on the board en route to a 4-3 win. 

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In the first inning, senior center fielder Kalyn Harker reached on a fielder’s choice and later scored on an RBI double from freshman catcher Sydney Jones. Sophomore left fielder Merri Anne Patterson was next to the plate and drove in Jones with an RBI single. 

The Wichita bats came alive in the fourth inning after being stiffed for the first three. Freshman third baseman Mackenzie Wright singled and scored on the next at-bat when junior second baseman Liz Broyles hit a two-run home run over the right field wall.

The game was tied until Patterson led off the sixth inning with a solo home run over the left field wall.

Despite a three-run fourth inning, Blaylock was happy with her pitcher’s performance.

“We’ve talked, and she understands that shutouts are a thing of the past,” she said. “We have to keep people close so we can score, and we think we did that.”

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The Salukis claimed the series in game two of the day despite an ugly first inning by the Saluki defense. Three singles, a sacrifice and an error led to three runs in the first inning. 

On a short fly ball to right field, Fisher and senior right fielder Meredith Wilson collided as the ball dropped to the ground and junior designated player Brittany Fortner scored. Wilson left the game with an ankle injury and is considered day-to-day. 

Sophomore pitcher Shaye Harre, who allowed 4 runs, three of which were earned, in the first two innings helped her cause at the plate in the bottom of the second with a walk that turned into a run on a sophomore shortstop Brook Womack single. 

The Saluki breakout inning came in the third when the team combined for 2 hits, 2 walks and 3 runs. Harker scored on a Harre RBI sac fly and Patterson and Womack scored on a 2 RBI double by junior designated player Lacey Newbold.

SIU and Wichita stayed tied at five until pinch hitting senior Kara Kimball led off the inning with a walk and scored on Harker’s RBI single.

Wichita tied the game in the top half of the seventh when Bertelsen entered the game with runners on the corners but failed to keep the lead. She hit Broyles and Wright with her first two pitches of the game. With the bases loaded and one out, Bertelsen settled into her pitches and got the next two batters to ground out.  

Bertelsen finished the day 2-0 with 7.2 innings pitched, 5 hits, 3 earned runs, 3 walks and 2 strikeouts with 104 pitches.

Harre led off the bottom of the seventh inning with a double. She scored to win the game when Womack blooped a ball to shallow left field just in front of the glove of a diving Adams.

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Saturday’s second game hero Womack said she did not swing for a home run in her final at bat.

“Since there was only one out, I knew that if I got out, the game wasn’t over,” Womack said. “I was just focusing on putting the ball in play.”

After the first two games of the weekend, Blaylock said the team needs to focus on one game at a time, and credited the win to a team effort.

“Phenomenal wins against a very good team,” she said. “I thought we showed gutty effort.”

The walk-off was the seventh time the team has won the game in its final at bat this year, including five of their six MVC wins.

On Sunday, Bertelsen was back in the circle and was untouchable until the final two innings en route to her third win of the weekend. 

The Salukis got on the board early with 3 runs in the first inning highlighted by a Jones two-run home run. 

SIU added 3 runs in the fifth inning on back-to-back home runs from Patterson and Womack just five pitches apart. The home runs caused Wichita to pull junior pitcher Ashlynne Neil in favor of sophomore Jenni Brooks.

In the sixth, the Shockers added 3 runs of their own to cut the Saluki lead in half. Bertelsen was dealing through five innings, allowing three batters to reach base. By the end of the inning, the Shockers had batted seven players for 4 hits, 3 runs and a walk. 

Wichita would add three more runs in the seventh inning to tie the game and force the Salukis to bat in the bottom half of the inning. 

Brooks shut down the Salukis through 1.2 innings before suffering the loss in the bottom of the seventh when Patterson hit a walk-off home run to right-center field.

Patterson said she was upset she had to bat again and gripped the bat tight for the final pitches.

“I was clenching the bat so hard and I knew they weren’t going to come inside again,” she said. “I toed the line and took it the other way.”

The Salukis are currently on a six game win-streak after sweeping conference opponents Bradley and Wichita State in back-to-back weekends.

Blaylock said she has coached too long to think too much about a fast start.

“You can’t define the season off of six games,” she said. “You can say you had a really good start and are playing really well. That’s about all you can say right now.”

The Salukis travel to Murray State to take on the Racers at 4 p.m. Tuesday at Racer Field.

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

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