May 8, 2014
By John Lock
NORMAL, Ill. - The Saluki Softball senior class likes to think of themselves as the "boring" class.
Senior third baseman Kelsea Ashton offered her assessment of the quirks of the various classes on this year's team.
"The freshman class is the weirdest eaters," she said. "The sophomore class is just outrageous. The junior class has so many different personalities. We're the normal class. We're boring."
While they may not be flashy personalities off the field, the five-member senior class that includes Ashton, Taylor Orsburn, Jayna Spivey, Allie VadeBoncouer and Michelle Glenn have provided lots of excitement on the diamond.
Orsburn and Spivey were immediate success stories. Orsburn set an SIU freshman record with 49 RBI in 2011 and hit .352, while Spivey joined Orsburn as a First-Team All-MVC honoree by hitting 11 home runs as a freshman.
Together, the group earned a reputation as grinders. They practiced hard, studied hard, and stayed focused. That grinding mentality has resulted in one of the most successful senior classes in SIU history. The quintet has combined for nearly 800 starts--an average of more than 150 per player--and has won the second-most games of any senior class in the Missouri Valley Conference over the last four years.
Spivey and Orsburn have led the way statistically. They rank first and second in school history in career RBI and are both among the top-10 RBI producers in MVC history, both having surpassed Garza's career mark. VadeBoncouer ranks second in NCAA history in career hit-by-pitches, and Ashton led the NCAA in sacrifices as a sophomore. Glenn, who actually joined the team during their junior seasons after spending two years at Lake Land College, has used her speed to go a perfect 17-for-17 in her career in stolen base attempts.
The next step for the grinders: SIU's first MVC Tournament title since 1991. The Salukis enter the tournament as the No. 3 seed, and they're getting hot at the right time. They've won 11 of their last 15 games, second-best in the Valley over that stretch--and they beat the only team with a better record, Wichita State, in a series at the Shockers' home field. Southern's first-round game will be against either Drake or Loyola tonight.
"I have so many emotions going through me," Orsburn said. "I'm happy, but I'm scared that it's almost over. And I'm also excited because we know we can do something good with this team. We know we can make a Regional."
Whenever the season ends, the seniors will have to adjust to life without softball, and SIU softball will have to adjust to life without five of its starters. Glenn will be off to student teach. Orsburn will be working in Saluki Athletics in the facilities office. VadeBoncoeur will join her in Athletics, working in the business office. Spivey is sticking around the area for Physician's Assistant school, and Ashton is hoping to be admitted to dental school.
For Blaylock, she has to find another set of grinders to replace another set of record-breaking seniors. That's next year's problem. First, can this "boring" class pull the upsets to win an MVC Tournament and tack on an exclamation point to an amazing four years?