March 15, 2008
By Kyle Herm
CARBONDALE, Ill. - The Southern Illinois softball team tied a season-high with three home runs, including two from junior third baseman Katie Wagner, to edge Northern Iowa, 4-3, Saturday afternoon at Charlotte West Stadium.
The Salukis, who also had three home runs against Idaho State in Hawaii last weekend, won their 14th-straight Missouri Valley Conference opener to improve to 13-11 on the season.
Freshman pitcher Nikki Waters did not allow a hit in 2 1/3 innings of relief to earn her seven win, while Wagner went 2-for-2 with two solo home runs, and junior outfielder Katie Schmidt went 1-for-3 with a solo homer to help provide the offense.
SIU head coach Kerri Blaylock said she was pleased with the way the top of the batting order came up with big hits in the game.
"(Katie) Wagner is feeling very confident at the plate right now, and it's nice to see," Blaylock said. "The whole top of the line-up put the bat on the ball, and (Katie) Schmidt came up with a very big home run when we needed a run."
With SIU trailing, 3-2, in the bottom of the fifth inning, Schmidt hit her third home run of season on a high, popup that carried over the left-center field wall to even the score at three.
Following a groundout, the Panthers' pitchers Jen Larsen and Liz Adams walked three-straight Salukis to load the bases for sophomore outfielder, Katie Wilson.
With a full-count, Wilson hit a line-drive to UNI's left fielder, but Wagner tagged-up from third base to score, and give the Salukis the lead, 4-3. The RBI-sacrifice fly by Wilson would eventually be the game-winner.
Waters, who got the last out in the top of the fifth inning, calmly stepped into the circle with a one-run lead and shutdown Northern Iowa for the final two innings. The Hixson, Tenn. native retired the final six Panthers' batters on four groundouts and a pair of pop-ups to close out the game.
SIU freshman starting pitcher Danielle Glosson did her best early on to keep the Panthers' hitters at bay. Glosson did not allow a hit, while striking out five in the first two innings.
UNI evened the score though, 1-1, on a RBI-double in the top of the third by Stephanie Aguero.
Wagner quickly gave the Salukis the lead back, 2-1, in the bottom of the third on her sixth home run of the season to right-center field. Wagner has now tied the SIU single-game record of two home runs twice this season and three times in her Saluki career.
After a scoreless fourth inning Northern Iowa posted two more runs on another RBI-double by Aguero, and a RBI-single by Larsen to give the Panthers the lead back, 3-2, to set-up the Salukis' bottom of the fifth rally.
Glosson, who did not factor into the decision, still recorded seven strikeouts in 4 2/3 innings to give her a team-high 54 on the season.
Southern Illinois will take on Northern Iowa again at Charlotte West Stadium on Sunday, March 16 for a doubleheader beginning at 12 p.m.