By Kyle Herm
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - The Southern Illinois softball team used a combination of strong defense and pitching to shutout UNC-Greensboro, 5-0, Friday morning in the first game of the 2008 season at the Jacksonville University Tournament. Freshman pitcher, Nikki Waters, only surrendered three hits, while recording eight strikeouts to earn her first-career win.
The Salukis out-hit the Spartans, 8-3, en route to their first victory of the season, and second all-time against UNC-Greensboro.
After three scoreless innings to start the game, SIU got on the scoreboard first in the top of the fourth. With two outs, senior shortstop Becky Wegmann delivered a two-run off-the-wall double in left field to score Katie Wilson and Jayme Wamsley, which put the Salukis up, 2-0.
Southern Illinois pushed another run across in the top of fifth inning. With senior Tiffanie Dismore on third base, Wilson clubbed a two-out RBI double to increase the Salukis' lead, 3-0.
SIU added two more insurance runs in the top of the seventh. With one out, Wamsley drove in sophomore Katie Schmidt from third, and the next batter, junior Katie Wagner, drove in Wilson on a fielder's choice to make the final, 5-0.
Waters only walked one batter, and held UNC-Greensboro without a baserunner until the third inning.
"What set the tone in this first game was pitching and defense," said SIU head coach Kerri Blaylock. "Nikki (Waters) did a tremendous job in the circle, and we made some key defensive plays to stop their momentum."
The key defensive plays in the game came in the bottom of the fourth and fifth innings with the Salukis in the lead.
The Spartans threatened with a runner on first base and one out, but UNC-Greensboro's first baseman MC Vercoe lined-out to Wegmann at shortshop, and Wegmann's throw doubled-off Brittany Ausley at first base to end the fourth.
In the fifth inning, the Spartans threatened with a runner on third and two outs, but Waters recorded her fifth strikeout to end the UNC-Greensboro inning, and hopes of getting on the scoreboard.
The Salukis opened the season with a victory for the seventh time in the last nine years.