Senior pitcher Brittney Lang.
March 29, 2013
By Bill Ford
NORMAL, Ill. — Illinois State rallied from a 7-run deficit in the seventh inning, but the Southern Illinois softball team held off the Redbirds for an 11-10 win on the road Friday.
ISU (13-13, 0-1 MVC) had a better start and a hotter finish, but the Salukis (13-15, 1-4 MVC) dominated the middle innings for their first Missouri Valley Conference win of the season.
The Redbirds jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the first inning, tagging Saluki starter Brittney Lang for three hits while Southern's offense struggled out of the gate. SIU head coach Kerri Blaylock was ejected from the game in the bottom of the first, sparking a fire under the Salukis.
“It was definitely a move to try to get things going,” SIU associate head coach Jen Sewell said of Blaylock’s ejection. “Road games are tough in this league. Every time you come to Illinois State you need to play with a lot of emotion. I really feel like (the ejection) changed what we were doing at the plate.”
SIU bounced back to outscore the Redbirds 11-1 over the next five innings. Southern scored an unearned run in the second and added three runs in the third inning on a 3-run home run by Jayna Spivey to tie the game at 4-4.
Southern exploded for five more runs in the fourth inning to extend the lead to 9-4. Kalyn Harker hit her second home run of the season, a two-run shot, before Spivey drove in a run with a fielder’s choice and Allie VadeBoncouer smacked a two-run double.
The Salukis rounded out the middle-innings melee with Kelsey Gonzalez hitting an RBI double in the fifth and Meredith Wilson hitting an RBI double in the sixth to give SIU an 11-4 lead. After giving up three earned runs on five hits in the first two innings, Lang only allowed two hits with no runs in the next four.
“It was a win-win situation for our offense and our defense to make some big plays and for a closer to come in to shut the door,” Sewell said of the final inning.
Eight out of Southern’s nine batters came up with a hit in the game with four Salukis picking up multiple hits in the 13-hit performance. Gonzalez went 3-for-4 with an RBI while Spivey went 2-for-4 with four RBI to lead the offense while VadeBoncouer and Taylor Orsburn each picked up two hits.
“I think those players have really been putting a lot of pressure on themselves to hit the ball in RBI situations,” Sewell said of the middle of the Saluki lineup. “It has taken a little bit of time after that early, tough part of that schedule. They have kind of settled in and gotten back to who they are.”
Lang (8-8) picked up the win after going 6.0 innings and allowing seven earned runs on 11 hits with a walk and a strikeout. Bertelsen picked up her first save of the season in the final inning of relief, allowing one run on one hit with a walk and a strikeout.
The Salukis and Redbirds conclude the series with a doubleheader Saturday beginning at noon at Marian Kneer Stadium.