Daily Egyptian

Softball to kick off season this weekend

By Sean Phee, @SeanPheeDE

SIU softball will have a busy weekend to start the 2015 season, with four games in two days.

The Salukis left Wednesday for Charleston, S.C., for the Charleston Southern Tournament, where they will kick off the season against Ohio State University at 9 a.m. Friday.

The team’s schedule this year has it traveling a lot, both in the U.S. and out of country, as it plays the Triple Crown Invitational in Puerta Vallerta, Mexico, starting Feb. 26.

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Coach Kerri Blaylock said this is the first time she is taking her team out of the country but will prepare for the tournament just like she would for any other.

It will not be the farthest the Salukis have traveled either–the team has played tournaments in Hawaii.

Junior infielder Kelsey Gonzalez said balancing travel and schoolwork does not interfere with her performance.

“We get a lot of traveling as athletes but tutors and teachers are usually very helpful,” she said.

Last year, Gonzalez finished in the top three on the team in hits, batting average and slugging percentage.

Gonzalez, one of three team captains with senior outfielders Kalyn Harker and Meredith Wilson, said being a team captain puts her in a unique spot.

“It’s a really cool responsibility,” she said. “You get to see things from the coaches perspective and the team’s perspective.”

The captains have a lot to live up to because the team, which graduated five seniors after last season, has had only one losing season in the past 15 years. Blaylock has been at the helm as coach for all 15.

She said the key to this success is to not think so much about having a great season as much as it is focusing on the task at hand.

“We’re focusing on Ohio State this Friday,” Blaylock said. “Our goal always is to win the conference but you have to take it one game at a time and one pitch at a time.”

Harker said she understands Blaylock’s philosophy of not getting ahead of yourself. She said Blaylock taught her to not get down after a botched play.

“The most important thing I’ve learned is to have a short memory,” Harker said. “You need to forget about mistakes you’ve made or outs that you’ve had and just move past it, learn from it and move to the next play.”

Despite the team’s philosophy of taking things one game at a time, Harker said winning the Missouri Valley Conference Championship would be a great way to finish her senior season.

It has been five years since the Salukis last won the conference and seven years since they made an appearance at the NCAA tournament.

Wilson said Wichita State and Illinois State are SIU’s two biggest conference rivals. The two teams finished in first and second place in the conference last season, respectively.

SIU tied for third in the conference.

“We always seem to go back and forth with them,” Wilson said.

Despite this, Wilson said the team is ready for the challenge.

Sean Phee can be reached at [email protected] or at 536-3311 ext. 269.

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