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Sports editor

Les Winkeler is sports editor and outdoors writer for The Southern Illinoisan.

Streams of unconsciousness from the world of sports:

Congrats Salukis: My mother was a pessimist of some renown.

Her philosophy was simple: Expect the worst, and if something good happens, celebrate. I’m a lot like my mother in that regard.

That’s why I was pleasantly surprised Sunday night to learn the Southern Illinois University softball team had earned an NCAA tournament bid. Without a doubt, the Salukis have an NCAA resume, but too many times the phrase “On the bubble” can be translated to “On the outside looking in.”

The pessimistic side of me thought last Friday’s loss to UNI would end SIU’s season. Despite an RPI of 42, an NCAA bid just didn’t seem to be in the cards.

Not this time.

The Salukis are heading to Evanston to play the University of Louisville. This will be the 12th NCAA appearance in SIU history. Louisville comes into the tournament with a 33-21 record. The Salukis are 33-13.

Congrats Salukis Part II: SIU men and women’s track teams both made good showings at last weekend’s Missouri Valley Conference championships. The Saluki women finished second.

Two premier performers for SIU were Carterville’s Madison Meyer and Mount Vernon’s Aveun Moore-Jones. Meyer won the heptathlon and long jump and also scored in the javelin. Meyer was The Southern’s girls track athlete of the year in 2015.

Moore-Jones, a sophomore, earned the MVC shot put title Saturday with a toss of 50-11. It was the first MVC title of her career.

The Saluki men finished fourth and got a conference championship from Du Quoin’s Caleb Vogel in the high jump. Vogel, a sophomore, cleared 6-9.75.

Impressive contributions from Southern Illinois kids.

Beane’s departure: It was sad, but not surprising, to learn Darius Beane had decided to transfer from SIU.

Beane’s father, Anthony Beane, was a casualty of the coaching change at SIU. It seemed inevitable that the younger Beane would transfer, but he waited several weeks to make the announcement.

A four-year starter at Carbondale High School, Beane made significant contributions at SIU last year. His athleticism made him a dangerous rebounder despite his slight build. And, at times, he hit some crucial 3-pointers for the Salukis.

Had Beane stayed, the Salukis would have had three strong, experienced guards with Aaron Cook and Eric McGill also returning.

Kevin Youkilis: If you are a baseball fan and you are active on Twitter, I’d urge you to follow former major leaguer Kevin Youkilis @GreekGodOfHops.

Youkilis is outspoken on the issue of youth baseball and current trends in baseball at all level. His commentary is blunt, to the point and right on the money. (Translation: We see eye-to-eye on problems confronting the game.)

While I can understand people dismissing my thoughts on the matter, it’s thought provoking to see what a former major leaguer and pretty solid hitter has to say about the game.

And, best of all, Youkilis will engage in a conversation if you have questions or criticisms. He’s an intriguing follow.

State track: The girls state track meet at Eastern Illinois University this weekend should be an interesting affair.

Last year Southern Illinoisans failed to win a single state title. I think that situation will be rectified this year with Du Quoin and Carbondale sending strong contingents to state.

Carbondale’s Sydney Apgar has the best discus throw, by more than five feet, going into the state meet. Du Quoin’s Madison Davis is the top seed in the Class 1A 100 and 200 meters. And, both teams field outstanding relays.

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LES WINKELER is the sports editor for The Southern Illinoisan. Contact him at les.winkeler@thesouthern.com, or call 618-351-5088 / On Twitter @LesWinkeler.

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