CARBONDALE — The SIU softball team signed two players for the 2019 season on Wednesday, the first day of the early signing period.

Sidney Sikes, a catcher and third baseman from Kaufman, Texas, and Ashley Wood, a shortstop from Orland Park, inked national letters of intent with the defending Missouri Valley Conference tournament champions. 

SIU coach Kerri Blaylock said the team will continue to recruit throughout the year and expects to add a few more players in the spring.

"We are so glad that Sid and Ashley chose to become Salukis," Blaylock said. "We addressed some needs that we felt like we would be losing. Both players come from winning summer programs and have played at the highest level. We knew it was a great fit when both of them stepped on campus. We are extremely pleased to have them wear the Saluki uniform."

Sikes has competed for state and national championships with the Texas Glory, a club team that is ranked sixth in the nation. Sikes joins freshman Shelby Hodo as the second Saluki on the roster to play for the Glory. Sikes helped the Glory to a Triple Crown Texas State Championship and a fifth-place finish at the Triple Crown Nationals in 2017.

Sikes earned team MVP honors at Crandall High School while hitting .422 with 31 RBIs, 14 doubles and a home run in 2017. She earned all-newcomer honors as a freshman and is a two-time defensive player of the year. Flosoftball.com ranked Sikes on its hot-100 list of top club players in the nation in 2016. Sikes earned academic all-district honors all-three years in high school.

"Sid is such a spark plug," Blaylock said. "She plays so hard and is constantly communicating with her teammates. Her energy is infectious. Sid is a great defensive player behind the plate and at third. She is a tough hitter as well. She is disciplined and hits for average as well as power."

Wood comes to the Salukis as a class 4A all-state pick and a three-time all-conference selection at Carl Sandburg High School. Wood hit.439 with 34 RBIs in 2017, and has racked up 90 RBIs and 41 doubles in her career. The Daily Southtown named Wood to its all-area team in 2016 and '17.

She was also one of the Daily Southtown's 25 players to watch in the South-Chicago area in 2017. The Orland Park native plays her club ball for the Illinois Sparks. She helped her club team to a national championship at the 16-under level.

"Ashley is such a great athlete. She has size, range and a great arm for a shortstop," Blaylock said. "She hits for gap power and has very good speed. Ash knows the game and is such a smart player, which you love to have in your shortstop."

The Salukis captured their first MVC tournament title since 1991 earlier this year and were assigned to the Oxford (Mississippi) Regional in the NCAA Tournament. SIU lost 8-0 to the host Rebels and 4-0 to North Carolina to end a 33-24 season. 

The Salukis return all three pitchers, including first team all-conference pick Brianna Jones, and seven other positional starters from last season. 

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Sports reporter

Todd Hefferman has covered SIU athletics since 2008. A University of Iowa grad, he is a member of the U.S. Basketball Writers Association and a Heisman Trophy voter.

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