Daily Egyptian

Saluki softball sweeps Valparaiso Crusaders in three

By Tamar Mosby, Staff Reporter

SIU Softball hosted the Valparaiso University Crusaders for a three game series last weekend at the Charlotte West Stadium.

The Dawgs had met with Valpo three times prior to this weekend, leading the Crusaders 2-1 in the all-time series. Last season when the two teams met, SIU split the series with the Indiana team walking away with one win and one loss.

This weekend, Southern swept the Crusaders three games to bring their current MVC record into the winning column at 5-3.

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Game 1

The first game of the series took place on Saturday at noon and proved to be a quick one as the Dawgs went to work early.

In the first inning, Valpo started strong, scoring one run and keeping Southern scoreless.

With the Crusaders unable to score in the top of the second, the Salukis found their footing extremely well as they scored ten runs in the bottom of the inning.

During this inning, Southern made it through 14 batters with nine of them recording hits.

The Crusaders had no answer for SIU the remainder of the game, but this did not make the Dawgs let up as they went on to score ten more runs in the remaining two innings to give them 20 total at the end of the game.

“We’ve scored 16 runs this year and now 20 runs,” Saluki head coach Kerri Blaylock said. “This is what makes me so frustrated, at times, with this team. We are a good offensive club if we keep our head about it. We have to understand we can’t do it all the time, so if someone has our number one time through the order, that’s okay. We’re going to be okay.”

Junior infielder Kyleigh Decker led the way for Southern Illinois in this game, going three-for-three in batting with a two-run home run, four runs scored, a walk and three RBIs.

Freshman infielder Ashley Wood and junior infielder Maddy Vermejan were also key players in this game. Wood went two-for-two in batting with one double, one walk and five RBIs, while Vermejan scored her first solo homer of the year.

Senior Briana Jones was at the mound for the Salukis for all five innings, only allowing one run on five hits. The senior stud also struck out six batters in the process.

Southern’s 20-1 win marked the first 20 run game for the program since 1993.

Game 2

Game two was also played on Saturday, but this one proved to be tough, long and very close for the Dawgs.

Unlike the previous game, this one lasted for eight innings with SIU barely scratching out a win with a score of 5-4.

The Crusaders were silent and scoreless for the first two innings of the game, while the Salukis were able to put up one run in each of the innings.

Both of these runs came on RBIs from Wood and sophomore outfielder Maris Boelens.

Junior Claire Miller started at the mound for the Dawgs, but was relieved in the fourth inning by sophomore Holly Marousek after Valpo scored four straight runs in the top of the inning. Marousek held the Crusaders to one hit and no runs until she was relieved by Jones in the seventh inning.

“I told Holly, she settled us down and kept us right there,” Blaylock said. “With Bri having thrown right around 70 pitches in game one, it allowed me to go to Bri in the seventh.”

In the bottom of the sixth inning, things heated up for Southern when Boelens came up to bat and singled a two run RBI down the middle of the field to tie the game at 4-4.

“That hit was huge,” Blaylock said. “She sat the bench in the first game and was called on in the second game. She’s been battling kidney stones off and on for three weeks and that was huge moment for her.”

Sophomore Megan Brown was SIU’s saving grace in the bottom of the eighth as she slammed the first walk-off homer of her career out of the field to break the tie and win the game 5-4.

“I didn’t pick a side of the plate like I knew if it was in or out of the strike zone,” Brown said. “If it was a strike I was going to sell out and was going to either hit it or miss it. I just happened to get a good piece of it and it went out of the ballpark.”

Brown went three-for-four in hitting with one RBI and one run scored.

Game 3

The third and final game of the series was played Sunday at noon.

The Salukis started off strong, scoring one run in the first inning and two in the second. While Southern’s batters were sparking up the offense, Jones was keeping the Crusaders in check on defense, only allowing one run in the five innings she pitched.

The first run of the game was scored by Vermejan as she advanced to first after being hit by a pitch, stole second and was batted in by Wood.

The second run came on another solo homer from Brown, giving her two on the weekend.

Another solo homer in the bottom of the second inning by senior first baseman Jordan Spicer put the Dawgs up 3-0 entering the third inning.

After a Valpo run in the top of the third and two scoreless innings for Southern, the score sat at 3-1 with the Dawgs still ahead.

Two RBIs in the fifth and sixth innings from SIU put the Dawgs up 5-1 with just one inning to go.

In the seventh and final inning the Crusaders (9-13, MVC 1-5) were able to string together two more runs, but it was not enough to take the lead and the Salukis came out with the 5-3 win.

“Sunday can be interesting every weekend because they’ve seen our pitchers multiple times,” Blaylock said. “Sometimes its survival of the fittest. I’m just proud of them that we finished it out.”

SIU Softball will take the field again this Wednesday in the Charlotte West Stadium at 4 p.m. as they take on the UT Martin Skyhawks.

Sports reporter Tamar Mosby can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter at @mosbytamar.

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