CARBONDALE — The SIU softball team finished off a three-game sweep of Missouri State Sunday with a 3-2, walk-off win at West Stadium.
Eyrika Brandenburg's walk-off double in the bottom of the seventh inning drove in Susie Baranski for the winning run. SIU (30-22, 17-8 Missouri Valley Conference) won its fourth straight game to end the season and will take the third seed into this week's league tournament in Normal. The Salukis will play either seventh-seeded Missouri State (22-25, 10-16) or sixth-seeded Drake (28-26, 11-15) at 1:30 p.m. Friday.
The Lady Bears and Bulldogs play in the second game of the tournament Thursday at 1:30 p.m. Evansville (20-32, 11-15) takes on eighth-seeded Loyola (26-25, 9-17) at 11 a.m. Thursday in the tournament opener.
Northern Iowa (32-18, 20-6) won the top seed by completing a three-game sweep at Illinois State (30-20, 20-6). The Redbirds dropped to the No. 2 seed and, like the Panthers, received a double bye into the tournament semifinals.
Wichita State (31-19, 16-9) is the fourth seed.
Nicole Doyle started Sunday for SIU and pitched three strong innings. She held the Bears to five hits and one run, while picking up two strikeouts in the process. Doyle finished the regular season with 77 Ks in 79 innings of work, nearly averaging one strikeout per inning.
SIU got on the board first, plating a couple in the bottom of the third. Shaye Harre got the Salukis going with a double in the right-center field gap with one out. The double made Harre SIU's all-time leader, breaking the previous record of 47. She also tied tied the single-season doubles record, finishing the regular season with 17.
Sydney Jones was up two batters later and hit a liner off the pole in left field for her ninth homer of the season and second of the weekend for a 2-0 lead.
In the top half of the fourth the Bears responded with a run of their own. MSU picked up two hits in the inning, one of them being a triple, to score their first run of the game. Brianna Jones came into the game one batter after the three-bagger and got the Salukis out of the inning.
MSU tacked one more on the board in the top of the fifth to tie the game at two.
The game remained tied until the bottom half of the seventh. Missouri State began the inning by getting two quick outs. Baranski singled into left field, and then stole second base for her ninth swipe of the season. Baranski's single was her 53rd hit of the year, which is the most by a Saluki since Jayna Spivey's 55 back in 2014. Baranski also became the first freshman to lead the Salukis in hits since Alicia Garza in 2007.
Brandenburg took care of the rest. The sophomore launched a ball into the left-center gap for her fourth hit of the weekend and third RBI.
The Salukis' 17-8 mark in the Valley was their best since 2011.