Saluki softball’s offensive burst from Saturday’s doubleheader continued into Sunday, but it didn’t show itself until the final inning.
Senior first baseman Shaye Harre’s seventh-inning grand slam proved to be the difference, as SIU defeated Illinois State in the decisive third game of the series 7-5.
Illinois State (16-16, 6-3 MVC) held the lead for most of the game after roughing up starting pitcher Savanna Dover early. The Redbirds scored four runs in the first off of Dover on just three hits.
The Redbirds scored four runs in the first off of Dover, on just three hits in the first. The junior pitcher walked four batters in her 2/3 of an inning before sophomore Brianna Jones came in for relief. Jones (9-8) picked up the victory to boost her record past .500 on the season.
Those four runs erased an early lead for the Salukis, who marched out to a 3-0 lead in the top of the first on RBI singles from senior centerfielder Merri Anne Patterson and freshman second baseman Maddy Vermejan.
Vermejan had the most consistent game out of all the Saluki batters, going 3-3 with her two RBIs.
Once Jones came in, the Redbird scoring stopped for the most part. Illinois State tallied one more run in the second, then was held scoreless for the remainder of the game.
The problem for SIU (19-16, 7-2 MVC) was that its offense went stagnant as well. From the second inning through the sixth, the Salukis mustered just three hits off junior pitcher Sarah Finck.
In the seventh, though, Southern found the right pieces of the puzzle. Junior Savannah Fisher and freshman Susie Baranski both singled off Finck and Illinois State brought in sophomore Shannon Felde in relief.
The Saluki momentum continued as sophomore Eyrika Brandenburg walked to load the bases, setting up Harre for her game-winning moment.
Harre entered Sunday at fourth in the nation in walks per game (1.04), but with nowhere to put her, Felde had to pitch to Harre and she deposited it beyond the centerfield wall.
Jones closed out the game with three straight groundouts to clinch the Saluki victory.
With the win and other results around the Missouri Valley Conference, SIU stands alone in first place in the conference at 7-2.
Southern hosts a midweek matchup with Saint Louis at 4 p.m. Wednesday before traveling to Cedar Falls to face Nothern Iowa on Saturday and Sunday.
Sports editor Sean Carley can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @SeanMCarley.
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