Saluki softball inks five players for 2015-16

By Tony McDaniel

SIU softball has reloaded for the 2015-16 season in several key positions.

The Salukis signed five players Wednesday—two pitchers, two outfielders and a third baseman.

Coach Kerri Blaylock said her five signings will fill the void left by five seniors who run out of eligibility at the end of the 2015 season.

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“We signed two pitchers to replace the two that we’re losing,” she said. “We signed two outfielders and one kid that can play infield and outfield. Our two outfielders replace Kalyn [Harker] and Meredith [Wilson] and the one combo kid replaces Kara [Kimball].”

Statistically speaking, the two most impressive signees are outfielder Eyrika Brandenburg from Mooreland, Okla. and pitcher Nicole Doyle from Aurora, Ohio.

Brandenburg is a career .550 hitter at Mooreland High School. She also has 108 RBIs and 40 doubles. The outfielder has only struck out six times at the high school level. She holds records in 17 single-season and career categories at Mooreland.

Brandenburg will join junior utility player Caylee Cook as the only Oklahomans on the roster.

Luke Thompson, the softball coach at Moreland, said he might never coach another player like Brandenburg.

“At some point in your coaching career you’re going to have that player you say, ‘This is the best player I’ve ever coached and you ever will coach,’” Thompson said. “That’s my girl right now. She is the best player I’ve ever coached.”

Doyle is 28-4 in her career at Aurora High School. She had a miniscule 0.20 ERA in 2013. In her career she has 6 no-hitters and 390 strikeouts.

Not only is Doyle an accomplished pitcher, she also has success in the batter’s box. She hit .408 with 8 doubles and 23 RBIs last season.

Blaylock said she does not plan to use Doyle as a hitter right away.

“She’s a really, really good pitcher, so I told her if she’s one of the best nine I’ll let her hit, but she’s going to have to be one of the best nine,” she said. “We don’t want her to get hurt.”

SIU also signed Brianna Jones, a pitcher form Manchester, Tenn.

Jones has been named All-District three times for Coffee County Central High School. According to MaxPreps.com, Jones has a career 0.63 ERA with 57 wins and 785 strikeouts.

Jones’ coach at Coffee County Central was Terry Floyd. Floyd said Jones will be ready to pitch against Missouri Valley Conference competition right away.

“Coach Blaylock will truly enjoy having Brianna as part of the pitching staff,” he said. “Brianna is a team player and she’s good. She can throw in the mid-’60s pretty consistently. She’s a leader by example.”

She was also an American Softball Association national champion at under-14 and under-16 levels.

Doyle and Jones will fill in for senior pitchers Katie Bertlesen and Alyssa Wunderlich who will finish their careers after the 2015 season. Blaylock expects Doyle and Jones to see work in the circle their freshman years.

“They’re going to be used immediately. They’re both very good,” Blaylock said.

The team also added depth with outfielder Hanna Porter from O’Fallon, Mo. and third baseman Hanna Stam from Farmington, Mo.

Stam made the Missouri All-State team in 2014 and has a career .469 batting average.

Porter was on the Missouri All-State second team. She was also named the team MVP for Fort Zumwalt West High School in 2013 and 2014. Porter has 24 home runs and 35 steals in her high school career.

Blaylock said she likes this season’s recruiting class because all the players have proven they can win.

“All of them are winners and that’s very appealing and something that you want. You want kids who have had success,” she said. “Whether they’re pitchers or hitters, you want winners.”

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