Saluki softball coach sees another rise to top in fall ball
The Southern Illinois University softball team made it to the NCAA tournament last year, and coach Kerri Blaylock sees a lot of the same success on the horizon this year -- before practice has even started.
“I haven’t seen the team yet, but we are feeling really good coming off of our success last year," Blaylock told the SW Illinois News. "We have two returning pitchers who did really fantastic for us last year. We also have a lot of returning starters, and we feel really good about our freshman class.”
Blaylock said the team is looking forward to the start of fall ball and will hold its first official practice on Sept. 1. The Salukis will open the season with a doubleheader on Sept. 10 against Rend Lake College and John A. Logan College.
The Salukis have a number of returning starters, which Blaylock said will create healthy competition among players.
“We have six starters, including two pitchers back,” she said. “I am looking for them to keep their positions, and then there will be a couple of positions open for returning non-starters, or freshman. I think competition is healthy for any team. You want to see the players compete and get after it.”
Blaylock said a number of incoming freshmen will get a chance to show what they can do during fall ball.
“We feel like all the freshman should be able to contribute,” she said. “We hope a few of them will be starters, but we really don’t want to put that added pressure on them. We will just see how they do in fall ball.”
SIU will end the season on Oct. 1 in another doubleheader, this time against the University of Southern Indiana and Southeast Missouri State University.
The Salukis won the Missouri Valley Conference tournament last year, and Blaylock said a repeat is definitely on her mind.
“I think we were top 10 in the country defensively and did very good pitching,” she said. “I want our offensive production to be consistent, and I thought we did really good at the end of last year getting RBIs, and I would like to carry that over to the new season.”
When the 2018 spring season opens, the Salukis will face a tough schedule against the top teams in the MVC. Blaylock said the team’s goal coming into the spring season will be to lift the conference trophy again.
“Our goal is always to win the conference championship,” Blaylock said. “If it’s not our goal, then there’s probably something wrong.”
The Salukis will have to battle some of the toughest teams in the Midwest during conference play, including Illinois State University (ISU) and the University of Northern Iowa (UNI), who finished tied for first place in the MVC at the end of regular season play, before SIU won the conference tournament.
For more information about the upcoming Salukis softball season or to see their fall schedule, visit www.siusalukis.com.