Pitcher Brittney Lang keys Saluki Softball's late-season rise

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    May 3, 2013

    By Bill Ford

    CARBONDALE, Ill. - Brittney Lang is her own toughest critic.

    The Southern Illinois senior threw one of the best games of her career on April 20 against Creighton. To hear her reflect on the one-run loss to the Missouri Valley Conference leading Bluejays, however, you'd never guess she had a good outing.

    "It's about whether we win or lose," Lang said. "Creighton was really a tough loss because we were ahead. That one really hurt."

    Lang fanned a career-high 13 batters and held Creighton scoreless on three hits through the first seven innings before the Bluejays struck for six runs in the eighth inning to take a 6-5 win.

    Despite the loss, the Crieghton game was one in a series of games over the last month that the SIU senior was dominant. Prior to the Creighton game, Lang's career high in strikeouts was seven. She has eclipsed that mark three times since.

    Lang and Salukis enter final weekend of regular season with chance for top-4 seed.

    "Really, since Wichita, she has been very good," said SIU head coach Kerri Blaylock. "I think she's been more mechanically correct and she has been more confident. She has understood what kind of pitches we want her to throw with two strikes, as opposed to leaving the ball too much on the plate."

    Since coming into the program four years ago as a player Blaylock described as, "the skinniest thing I ever saw throwing gas," Lang has blossomed over the past two seasons. She has won 11 or more games the last two years and has led the team in strikeouts both seasons.

    "When she came in, she had trouble finding the strike zone. She threw the ball hard, but it was kind of all over," Blaylock said. "She has developed different pitches. Her changeup is very serviceable now. She has developed two other pitches besides being just a fastball-type pitcher."



    Though her command has improved over the years, Blaylock said one thing has always been a constant with Lang -- she is always tough on herself. A perfectionist with a 3.97 GPA, Blaylock said Lang often has a tough time accepting mistakes.

    "Kerri gives me something to work on each summer," Lang said. "Last summer, it was just keeping my composure and staying the same throughout the entire game. Not letting down one inning."

    Blaylock said Lang has been a trooper through an up-and-down season for SIU. The senior had to log more innings than normal early in the year while sophomore Katie Bertelsen rehabbed an injury, never once complaining.

    "She's hung in there," Blaylock said. "She's had some tough losses, but she has come right back and she has had some big wins for us."

    Lang's perseverance is paying of for SIU as it closes out 2013. Entering the final weekend of MVC play with its entire pitching staff intact, SIU has been on the rise in the last half of Valley play. After struggling to start conference play, Southern enters the final week of the regular season with a shot at one of the top four seeds in the Valley Tournament.

    "I think anybody can win the conference tournament," Lang said. "I'm just excited because I think our team can win it."