SIU’s softball team claimed its first conference series victory against Illinois State since 2008 Sunday among nearly 180 cheering fans in a three-game Missouri Valley Conference series at the Charlotte West Stadium on Saturday and Sunday.
After losing three consecutive years to Illinois State, the Salukis (20-9, 7-2 MVC) jumpstarted their series Saturday against the Redbirds (20-15, 6-3 MVC) with split victories between the two teams. SIU lost the first game 5-0 but rebounded
in game two and won 6-1.
With the series tied 1-1 after Saturday’s matchups, the Salukis turned up their defensive and offensive game after the Redbirds scored the first run of Sunday’s game in the top of the fourth inning. However, freshman pitcher Katie Bertelsen’s strike-out pitches in the bottom of the fifth helped SIU win 2-1.
Coach Kerri Blaylock said Sunday’s game was a good win for the team because people are now aware of what the team is capable of doing.
“It’s important that we take care of series down the road, and it’s good because people know now we can win,” Blaylock said. “We don’t have to be labeled as one way or the other.”
Blaylock said the players remembered the difficulties they encountered in 2011, but Blaylock said she believed in her freshmen pitchers this year, even when she told Bertelsen she needed her to throw a strikeout.
“They all remember we lost in the last inning to (Illinois State) last year,” Blaylock said. “This year I put two freshmen on the mound and one of them comes in and I asked her to throw strikes to the last hitter, and she did.”
Bertelsen said when Blaylock substituted her into Sunday’s game for starting freshman pitcher Alyssa Wunderlich, who got her eighth win of the 2012 season and third consecutive conference victory, Bertelsen knew what she had to do.
“We all did what we had to do,” Bertelsen said. “I just came into the game and finished it for the team. Everybody is happy for the win.”
Bertelsen’s strikeout in the bottom of the fifth inning may have done it for the Salukis, but it was senior shortstop Haley Gorman’s RBI double that led senior centerfielder Mallory Duran-Sellers to score the the team’s first run.
“It was a low-scoring game, and (ISU pitcher Jordan Birch) is a good pitcher,” Gorman said. “We knew what we were up against, but we came out ready to go and came out on top.”
Gorman said the team’s defense and pitching against the Redbirds were key assets.
The Salukis will continue play Wednesday when they travel to St. Louis to take on the Billikens of Saint Louis University in a doubleheader.