March 6, 2009
By Kyle Herm
CARBONDALE, Ill. -The 18th-ranked Saluki softball team (13-2) let two leads slip away in a 6-5 eight-inning loss to Illinois (13-7) Friday afternoon at Charlotte West Stadium.
Illini first baseman Meredith Hackett delivered a leadoff solo home run to left field in the top of the eighth inning for the go-ahead and eventual game-winning run.
Hackett went 4-for-4 and fell a triple short of the cycle for the potent Illinois offense, which was no secret to head coach Kerri Blaylock.
"You can't quit playing against Illinois," Blaylock said. "They're too good offensively and use to having to win ballgames by large margins. They can score a lot of runs and I give them credit for not backing down."
Southern Illinois had one last chance in the bottom of the eighth, but senior Katie Schmidt was caught stealing second to end the game.
The home run allowed by McNamara also ended her consecutive unearned run streak at 35 1/3 innings to start the year.
"I thought we had a great approach to the game and great effort," Blaylock said. "The bottom line is you can't quit. We scored in the third, fourth and fifth inning but then didn't score again."
The Salukis held a slim 5-4 lead entering the top of the seventh and led by as many as three runs in the ballgame, however the Fighting Illini finished off their second rally of the day to even the score.
Illinois' top hitter, Danielle Zymkowitz, led off with a single and advanced to second on a Saluki throwing miscue to open the inning.
McNamara, who entered in the sixth for Glosson, wrapped up the inning to keep the game tied and give SIU a chance in the bottom of the seventh.
Freshman center fielder Mallory Duran was hit by a pitch from Illini freshman starter Monica Perry, and took second on a passed ball to set up a great scoring opportunity in the final inning of regulation.
Perry, who had already recorded 91 strikeouts this season, struck out Petty on a dramatic full count for her eighth of the game to send the contest into extra innings.
Illinois battled right back though with three runs in the ensuing top of the fifth to tie the game at three.
SIU regained the lead for the second time 5-3 in the bottom of the fifth on a RBI single by senior Katie Wagner and a sacrifice fly by Wilson.
The Illini came right back to cut into SIU's two-run lead on a run-scoring double-play groundout in the top of the sixth, which set the stage for the game-tying score in the seventh.
Wilson tied two career-highs in the loss with three walks and two stolen bases, and Duran continued her on-base streak to 15 games with a walk in her first at-bat.
Southern Illinois will look to rebound with four games this weekend at home in the Coach B Classic presented by Banterra Bank. The Salukis open the tournament on Saturday with games against SIU-Edwardsville and Wisconsin at 12 and 4 p.m.