Merri Anne Patterson
April 12, 2014
By John Lock
PEORIA, Ill. - The Southern Illinois softball team split a doubleheader with Bradley on Saturday afternoon at Laura Bradley Park. The Salukis (18-19, 6-7 MVC) lost the first game 5-1 before pulling through for a 7-6 win in the second game over the Braves (18-22, 9-5 MVC). When the potential tying run tried to score in the bottom of the seventh inning in the second game, freshman Merri Anne Patterson gunned down the runner at home by two steps to secure the Saluki victory.
"They were hitting balls at me all day," Patterson said. "I was hoping they would test me on a play at the plate. They finally did in the seventh, and I hosed her."
Patterson had been a big contributor this year, playing in 25 games coming in and starting four, but she got the first back-to-back starts of her career and took advantage of the chance. She drove in SIU's only run in the first game with a bases loaded walk and got SIU on the board in the second game with an RBI single.
"I'm so proud of the kid," head coach Kerri Blaylock said of Patterson. "She hasn't said anything all year long. She waited her turn. She has done nothing but compete. I felt like we needed some energy and some competitiveness in our lineup, and she gave it to us today in every sense of the words."
In the first game, Southern had a pair of chances early in the game. Kalyn Harker led off the game with a walk and ended up stealing second, but the next three hitters left her at second to end the inning. After a quick pop out, four-straight SIU hitters reached base, capped by freshman Patterson getting an RBI with a bases loaded walk, but Southern left the bases loaded from there.
Southern managed to stay within striking distance the whole game despite being out hit 12-to-3 and committing an error. In two straight innings, the Braves loaded the bases with no outs, and Southern got out of each inning only allowing a single run.
"We were gritty," Blaylock said. "They have a really good offensive ballclub, and they jumped on us early. (Starting pitcher Katie Bertelsen) hung in there. We didn't do much offensively, so I challenged the kids."
Southern Illinois' offense came to life in game two. SIU fell behind after Bradley put up a three-run first inning, but Southern got a run in the second and four more in the third to take a 5-3 lead. The Salukis got another run on a series of illegal pitches called on Bradley's pitcher, and Meredith Wilson gave SIU the insurance run that ended up being the difference in the game on a home run in the sixth.
Taylor Orsburn took over pitching in the first inning of the second game and pitched scoreless softball until the seventh. When she got in trouble in the seventh, Katie Bertelsen came in and induced the fly ball to Patterson and earned her third save of the year.
"Taylor had an phenomenal, gutsy performance in game two, and our offense was really, really good," Blaylock said.
The series finale, originally scheduled for a Noon CST start time, has been bumped up to 10 a.m. due to forecasted rain in the early afternoon.