SIU Comes Just Short of Sweep, Falls to Wichita State 5-4 on Sunday

    Shaye Harre hit a two-run home run to give SIU a 4-2 lead in the third inning.

    Shaye Harre hit a two-run home run to give SIU a 4-2 lead in the third inning.
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    April 27, 2014

    By John Lock

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    WICHITA, Kan. - The Southern Illinois softball team dropped the series finale to Wichita State 5-4 on Sunday afternoon at Wilkins Stadium. Southern (27-21, 14-9 MVC) had swept the doubleheader between the schools on Saturday to win its sixth-straight season series against the Shockers (31-20, 18-6) but came up one run short of a sweep on Sunday.

    "I knew today was going to be a dogfight because we had both seen each other's pitching," head coach Kerri Blaylock said. "(Katie Bertelsen) did a really good job for us. Credit Wichita's pitching; they threw up four zeros in the fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh to keep us off the board. But I'm really happy we came out of there winning two out of three."

    Wichita jumped on the board first when Cacy Williams walked to open the game. SIU got two outs, but Paige Mason hit a two-run shot to give WSU a 2-0 lead in the first frame. The Salukis responded to tie the game in the next half-inning. Kelsey Gonzalez and Taylor Orsburn hit back-to-back doubles with one out, and Orsburn tied the game on an errant throw after a Kelsea Ashton single.

    Southern took a two-run lead when Shaye Harre blasted a two-run homer to right-center after Jayna Spivey led off the inning with a walk, but that's where the scoring would stop for SIU. Wichita State got a run back in the bottom half of the third, the only run Bertelsen would give up among the second through fifth innings. Wichita started the sixth out with a pair of hits to get the go-ahead run on second base with no outs, and a double by a pinch hitter proved to be the decisive runs in the 5-4 game.

    The Salukis scraped out 10 hits in the game but left eight runners on base throughout the game. SIU got runners in scoring position in the three innings following Harre's home run, but none of the runs came around to score. SIU went 1-2-3 in the final frame. Taylor Orsburn was 2-for-3 with an RBI and run scored to lead an offense in which all nine spots reached base, and four spots reached at least twice.

    "They started getting us to chase some things," Blaylock said. "We left some runners on base in big situations, too."

    Katie Bertelsen took the loss but pitched another gutsy performance against Wichita State. The junior held Wichita State below its runs average a day after holding them to one run. Brittany Fortner came into the series seeming poised to break the MVC record for batting average in an MVC season at .554, but Bertelsen held her to 1-for-7 in two games against her and 0-for-4 on Sunday.

    Pitching against a team that leads the MVC in nine offensive categories and facing a hitter-friendly conditions with 25-mph winds pushing straight out to left field, Bertelsen posted a 3.23 ERA in two complete games over the weekend. She held Wichita--who came into the game hitting .314 as a team--to a .250 team batting average and just four extra-base hits.

    "Bertie pitched out of situations where it could have been worse," Blaylock said. "She made big pitches. Wichita State is the best hitting team in the Valley, and she did a great job against them."

    Despite the loss, SIU won the season series over Wichita State for the sixth-straight year after sweeping Saturday's doubleheader. Wichita State came into the weekend as the frontrunner in the Missouri Valley Conference and the favorite to get its first-ever MVC title in softball, but Southern's two wins allowed Illinois State to surpass the Shockers. The Redbirds and Shockers face each other in the regular season finale next weekend for the MVC regular season championship.

    Southern's wins put it in the catbird seat for the No. 3 seed in the MVC Tournament. The Salukis hold a half-game lead on Bradley heading into the conference's final series next weekend and a two-game lead on Northern Iowa. SIU welcomes Indiana State to Carbondale for a three-game series to close out the regular season.

    "We're going to take a couple days off and get to practice," Blaylock said. "Hopefully, we'll have a really good last weekend."