CEDAR FALLS, Iowa -- The Southern Illinois University softball team swept its Missouri Valley Conference doubleheader with the Northern Iowa Panthers Saturday, 6-1 and 4-2 in 12 innings, to clinch its first series win at UNI since 2007.
The Salukis took the opener behind a strong pitching performance by Brianna Jones and another double-digit hit output offensively. In game two, SIU gutted out a gritty, 12-inning win that was capped off by the heroics of Jenny Jansen, who's two-run, go-ahead home run put SIU up for good in the nightcap.
"The first thing I thought of is how we haven't won a series here in quite a while," 20th-year head coach Kerri Blaylock said. "Our pitching was exceptional today and our offense was phenomenal. Offensively, we set the tone right off the bat against a good pitching team."
Southern's pitching staff limited a UNI offense that came in averaging 5.3 runs a game to just three in 19 innings. The combination of Brianna Jones and Claire Miller held UNI's Sammy Bunch, a MVC Player of the Year candidate with a legitimate chance at the league's triple crown, to 0-for-5 at the dish while Bunch and returning All-MVC selection Olivia Brooks were a combined 3-for-14.
At the plate, Southern notched double-digit hits in both victories and have now done so in five-straight games. SIU's five-game streak of 10 or more hits is its longest since 2012.
In the opener, SIU scored a run in the first and two in the second to give Jones all the support she needed. Jenny Jansen tied a career-high with four runs batted in and Jordan Spicer hit her fifth home run of the season in the win.
In the top of the first, SIU loaded the bases courtesy of two walks and two singles. A RBI-single by Ashley Woodplated SIU's first run.
In the top of the second, Southern again filled up the bases and Jansen brought two runs in with a single. The Warrenton, Mo. native added to her RBI total in the sixth with a two-run double to the gap in left.
Each team hit solo home runs in the seventh. Spicer put SIU ahead, 6-0, with a solo shot, and the Panthers got a run off Jones with a solo blast of their own.
Jones went the distance in the opener and earned the win in relief in game two. The three-time All-MVC First Team honoree threw 14 innings Saturday and allowed just one earned run on nine hits. She struck out 12 and walked just three to improve to 20-7 on the season. Claire Miller, who started game two, threw five innings and allowed just two runs on two hits.
"Bri threw a great first game," Blaylock said. "I thought Claire did a terrific job through five in game two. Bri came on in relief and gutted it out and did an excellent job."
In game two, the Salukis scored the game's first run in the top of the first and plated another run in the sixth. UNI answered with two runs of its own in the bottom half of the inning after it chased Miller.
Both sides made tremendous defensive plays to extend the contest. SIU loaded the bases in the top of the ninth and Maddy Vermejan drove a two-out pitch to left center that UNI's Jenny Kohl snagged as it was falling to the turf.
Southern returned the favor in the bottom of the 10th. UNI got its leadoff hitter on after an error allowed her to get to second. Jones induced a grounder to Ashley Wood, who started the 6-3-4 double play.
SIU stranded two in the top of the 11th and UNI hit a towering, two-out fly ball that almost got lost in no man's land before Maris Boelens ran over from left field to snag it and get Southern out of the jam.
Boelens got the rally started in the top of the 12th with a one-out single down the left field line. Jansen crushed the next pitch over the left field fence to put SIU ahead for good.
With the two victories Saturday, Southern clinched yet another 30-win season, the 17th in Blaylock's 20 seasons at the helm of the Salukis.
"Its all about the players and we have been fortunate to have some really good ones here," Blaylock said of reaching the 30-win plateau. "I just fill out the lineup card. It says the most about the consistency of our program, and I guess that's what I'm most proud of. We haven't gone up and down- we've just stayed consistent."