CARBONDALE — Freshman catcher Katelyn Massa's one-out double in the bottom of the 10th scored Sydney Jones from first to provide the winning margin in SIU's 1-0 win over Evansville in a key Missouri Valley Conference softball game on Tuesday.
"First of all, I was proud of Bri (Brianna Jones) because we've been working hard on her control and mixing pitches, and this was the best game she's pitched all season and the kids hung in there against a phenomenal pitcher," said SIU coach Kerri Blaylock. "In that last inning, Jones did a great job reading the ball because if she doesn't go immediately, she doesn't score. And Katelyn came up big again."
The Salukis (26-21, 13-7 MVC) are on a four-game winning streak and hit the road for a game against Murray State on Wednesday.
In the bottom of the 10th, Shaye Harre fouled out on the first pitch to bring Sydney Jones to the plate. Jones fell behind 0-2, but on the next pitch, she hit a seeing-eye bouncer to left, bringing Massa to the plate.
Morgan Florey (14-8) got ahead when Massa fouled out the first pitch. After two pitches that were low and high and outside Massa fouled off the next two pitches.
"I was getting big jumps because we were trying to bunt," Jones said. "But when Kate got two strikes, I was taking off when she made contact unless it was right at someone, because we needed to get to at least third base."
On the next pitch Jones took off with the crack of the bat when Massa lined Florey's sixth pitch off the wall in left center.
"I knew what she did to me the previous few at-bats, so after getting input from my teammates and coaches I knew she was going to go up and the only way I was going to be able to hit that pitch because I couldn't lay off of it was if I got on top of the ball. It felt good off the bat," Massa said.
Jones got the go signal from third base coach Jen Sewell to head for home. The throw from the outfield was off the base allowing Jones to tag the plate for the winning run.
"I saw it off the bat and I knew it was going into the gap, so I took off," Jones said. "I was looking at whoever was behind the plate telling me to slide, so I knew it was going to be a close play, but she ended up over-throwing the ball, so it worked out. We really needed to win this game."
SIU and UE were locked in their second pitching duel in the six days with Florey besting Jones, 1-0, in the first game of a doubleheader in Evansville on a walk-off single.
The sophomore phenoms locked up again with Jones giving up just six base runners over the first seven innings stranding runners at third in the fourth, sixth and seven innings.
Florey held the Salukis to five base runners on four hits and a walk over the first seven innings not allowing any of the runners beyond second base.
Jones (13-11) set down the side in order in the eight and pitched around a one-out single in the ninth. In the top of the 10th, Ashlee Kawall led off with an infield single. The right-hander struck out Deja Shelton on three pitches, erased Kawall on a nubber in front of the plate by Brittany Hay that Massa almost caught and then stranded Hay at first on a pop fly to the short.
"We mixed a lot today and my curveball was more my out-pitch today.," Jones said. "Me and Kerri have had the conversation that I don't need to have anything get to me like runners on base, so I just go out there and throw. So I was just thinking about (not thinking) and my defense had my back today."
Florey walked Eyrika Brandenburg with two outs in the eighth, but got a break when Brandenburg was called out leaving early trying to steal second. In the ninth Maddy Vermejan singled with one out, but was thrown out attempting to steal second to end the inning on the first pitch to Harre.
Former Anna-Jonesboro multi-sport athlete Chandra Parr came into the game as the all-time leading home run hitter for Evansville. The senior reached base on her first two at-bats on a single and an error, but popped out to right with a runner at second in the sixth and again in the eighth inning and popped out to short to end the 10th.
Harre came into the game needing one RBI and one double to pull into a tie as SIU's all-time leader in both categories, but went 0-for-4.