Senior Brittney Lang
By Bill Ford
OMAHA, Neb. -- The Southern Illinois softball team's season came to an end at the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament Thursday at the CU Sports Complex.
The fifth-seeded Salukis opened the tournament with a 7-1 win over No. 8 Wichita State before falling to No. 4 Northern Iowa 6-4 later in the day in the quarterfinals. Southern finishes the season at 25-27 overall with a 12-10 mark in MVC play.
"I thought this weekend, how we came out, is how you have to approach every game," said SIU head coach Kerri Blaylock. "I was really pleased with the way they played this weekend. They gave it everything."
SIU 7, Wichita State 1
Junior Kelsea Ashton's three-run double in the second inning gave the Salukis an early lead and Southern never looked back in the six-run win.
SIU loaded the bases on a pair of walks an a single before Ashton roped one to right center to clear the bases in the bottom of the second, giving the Salukis a 3-0 lead. WSU bounced back with an unearned run in the top of the third, but SIU answered with a run on an RBI single by junior Michelle Glenn in the bottom of the inning to put the Salukis back up 4-1.
Southern kept the Shockers off the board for the remainder of the game as the Salukis added three more runs in the bottom of the sixth to coast to the win. Jayna Spivey and Meredith Wilson each picked up RBI hits in the sixth while the Salukis scored another run on a Shocker error.
"Our kids did what we do," Blaylock said. "We were very, very patient at the plate, and we looked for our pitches."
Brittney Lang (13-15) picked up the win after allowing no earned runs on three hits with seven strikeouts and just two walks in a complete game effort.
"I just thought Brittney kept her composure," Blaylock said. "She came out with a determination today and just went straight through the game, which is what we needed her to do."
Ashton led the Saluki offense, going 2-for-3 with three RBI and a sacrifice hit. Wilson, Glenn and Taylor Orsburn each picked up a pair of hits and Morgan Barchan scored two runs.
Northern Iowa 6, SIU 4
Morgan Barchan's grand slam in the fourth inning gave SIU a brief 4-3 lead, but the Panthers answered back with two home runs in the next two innings to get by the Salukis and into the tournament semifinal.
"We just made a couple of bad pitches," Blaylock said. "I don't think it was a bad pitching performance, it was just a couple of bad pitches at moments that UNI took advantage of."
The two teams endured an hour and 42-minute weather delay that struck during the bottom of the first inning. After play resumed, the Panthers struck for three runs in the bottom of the second, knocking Saluki starter Alyssa Wunderlich out of the game in favor of Katie Bertelsen.
After a scoreless third, Southern loaded the bases in the top of the fourth on a pair of walks and a Panther error bringing Barchan to the plate. Barchan gave SIU its first hit of the game with a bomb over the right field fence to clear the bases and give SIU a 4-3 lead.
"She's the gutsiest kid," Blaylock said of Barchan. "She came up in a huge situation when we needed her the most and she came through big time."
Barchan's grand slam marked SIU's school-record seventh of the season, as SIU had five different players hit one during the season.
UNI responded with a solo home run off Bertelsen in the bottom of the fourth to tie the game at 4-4 before hitting a two-run shot in the fifth go up 6-4. Southern couldn't produce any more runs in the final two runs, however, as the Salukis stranded eight runners for the game.
Bertelsen (4-3) suffered the loss after allowing three runs on five hits with two strikeouts in 3.0 innings of work. Southern finished with three hits against UNI's First-Team All-MVC hurler Jamie Fisher (19-13) who allowed three earned runs and struck out six with eight walks in the win.
Junior Taylor Orsburn picked up a hit in the game to end the season on a 14-game hit streak and a 23-game on-base streak.