Salukis split Saturday DH, take series from Illinois State 2-1

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    March 30, 2013

    By Bill Ford

    NORMAL, Ill. — The Southern Illinois softball team split a doubleheader with Illinois State Saturday to complete a 2-1 series win over the Redbirds.

    The Salukis fell in an early hole and couldn’t rally out in a 10-6 loss in Game 1 before using a six-run sixth inning to power a 9-3 win in the nightcap.

    SIU moved to 14-16 overall and 2-5 in Missouri Valley Conference play while the Redbirds moved to 14-14, 1-2 in Valley play. Playing Saturday’s games without head coach Kerri Blaylock, who missed the doubleheader due to illness, the Salukis picked up their first series win in Normal since 2005.

    “We’ve played typically very well up here,” said SIU associate head coach Jen Sewell. “Given the circumstances, we just had to come out and be fired up and ready to go. Taking this series was very important to us.”

    Game 1
    Illinois State 10, SIU 6
    Game 1 Stats

    The Salukis rallied from a 6-0 deficit after two innings to pull within 7-4, but the Redbirds added runs late to pull out the four-run win.

    Southern struggled out of the gates offensively with the first six Saluki batters going down in order. Meanwhile, the Redbirds touched SIU starter Alyssa Wunderlich for three runs in each of the first two innings off a combined five hits and three walks.

    “(Wunderlich) didn’t do a bad job. I thought she pitched around a few hitters and she just needed to be more aggressive,” Sewell said. “Illinois State is a matchup team and maybe she just didn’t match up real well today.”

    Wunderlich eventually settled in and allowed just one run on three hits over the next three innings.

    As Wunderlich improved, so did the Saluki offense. Michelle Bradley got things rolling with a solo home run to lead off the third inning and Kalyn Harker followed with a three-run shot in the fourth to pull SIU back within 7-4.

    “There is really no part of our lineup that can’t hit the ball at this point. We just kept talking all weekend about battling on offense,” Sewell said. “Illinois State is a good hitting team, so we thought as long as we could settle in on the mound and settle on defense, at some point we could tie it up and jump ahead.”

    ISU stole back momentum in the sixth inning, however, with a two-out, three-run double by Brittny Drish to put the Redbirds back on top 10-4. Southern answered with a pair of runs in the seventh on an RBI single by Harker and a sacrifice fly by Bradley, but the rally stopped there.

    Wunderlich (5-7) suffered the loss after allowing 10 runs on nine hits with 10 walks and a strikeout in six innings of work.

    Kelsea Ashton went 3-for-4 to lead the Saluki offense while Harker was 2-for-4 with four RBI and Allie VadeBoncouer was 2-for-3.

    Game 2
    SIU 9, Illinois State 3
    Game 2 Stats

    The Salukis broke a 3-3 tie after four innings with a six-run sixth inning, sealing the victory and with it the series win.

    Southern again started slow offensively with no runs in the first three innings while the Redbirds scored a run each in the first two innings. Southern finally awoke with a three-run fourth inning to take its first lead of the day. Jayna Spivey hit a leadoff double and Kalyn Harker followed with a single before Michelle Bradley put one over the fence to put the Salukis up 3-2.

    ISU answered back with an unearned run in the bottom of the fourth to tie the game at 3-3, but Southern reliever Katie Bertelsen kept the Redbirds off the scoreboard for the remainder of the game. Bertensen (1-1), who entered the game in relief of starter Brittney Lang in the second inning, had a solid day in her first significant outing of the season. The sophomore struck out three and allowed three hits and three walks in 5.1 innings of work.

    “It was a totally gutsy performance by her,” Sewell said of Bertelesen. “She used the strike zone to her advantage. She just hit every spot.”

    The Salukis backed Bertelsen’s performance with some solid offense in the sixth inning. Southern started the inning with a solo home run by Allie VadeBoncouer, followed by a two-run double by Kelsey Gonzalez and an RBI double by Morgan Barchan. Taylor Orsburn closed the inning with SIU’s fifth home run of the day, a two-run shot to account for the final margin.

    VadeBoncouer was the only Saluki with multiple hits, going 2-for-4, but all nine Saluki batters picked up a hit in the game.

    “We are getting production up and down our lineup at this point,” Sewell said. “I think that is really a sign we are settling down one through nine. There was really no one they could throw the ball flat to today. We were ready to go.”

    The Salukis have a pair of midweek non-conference games next week at home Tuesday against SIU Edwardsville, and on the road Thursday at Eastern Illinois. Southern will conclude the week with a three-game MVC series Saturday and Sunday, April 6-7 against Wichita State. Saturday’s games mark SIU’s annual Strikeout Cancer event.