The SIU softball team's mission in last weekend's series against Northern Iowa was clear. First, beat UNI two out of three. Check. Then the Dawgs would finish as a bye team that did not have to play an extra game in today's Missouri Valley softball tournament: A-OK.
It was a struggle, though. Last Saturday's double dip almost turned into a double flop after the Dawgs came back from the dead in the first game for a 4-2 win, but then flopped in game two as the Panthers socked them 6-1.
In the first game, SIU went into the bottom of the seventh trailing 2-1. But the baseball gods intervened. With two on for the Dawgs, Katelyn Massa hit a single to left, helping SIU tie the game 2-2.
With one still on, SIU slugger Jenny Jansen launched a shot of her own over the fence for the walk-off winner. But after the double-header split, SIU still needed another win to solidify a three seed in tomorrow's MVC semis.
Apparently the near-death experience in the double-header inspired Coach Kerri Blaylock's young charges, as last Sunday's third game was an 8-0 run-rule feast.
"We're so young sometimes I don't think this team realizes how good we are," Blaylock said. "We can finish, and I'm proud (how we did it) today."
The Salukis threatened in that Sunday getaway in the first inning but didn't break through. However, in the third they did. Sophomore Maddy Vermajan doubled to start the bottom of that inning. Susie Baranski walked, and then Jenny Jansen singled to load the bases.
Massa walked in a run (1-0 SIU lead) and then Sydney Jones Sac Fly plated another (2-0). Kyleigh Becker pounded a three run homer to make it 5-0 at the end of three innings.
The Dawgs kept on keeping on the next inning when freshman Maris Boelens and Vermajan both singled, followed by Baranski's screaming double that knocked in Boelens (6-0 SIU).
Another single by Jansen and a sacrifice fly by Sydney Jones made it 8-0. An eight-run lead by the sixth meant that the game was awarded to SIU without the formality of playing seven innings. That was a great relief for both the Saluki players and their to-be Hall of Fame coach Blaylock.
"We just kept pushing and pushing this series until we finally broke through in today's game," Blaylock said.
Now, the players get to sit out today's UNI vs. llinois State game and play the winner of said game at 1:32 pm May 11 for the right to face off later tomorrow with Missouri State.