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Sports editor

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

Twenty minutes after her heroic eighth-inning blast gave SIU a doubleheader sweep over Valparaiso on Saturday, Megan Brown could hardly maintain her excitement.

Her postgame interview was lively stream of consciousness, someone irreverent, open, honest and a joy to behold.

With The Salukis and Valparaiso deadlocked 4-4 going to the bottom of the eighth, Brown was set to lead off the inning. She took no grand plan to the plate.

Brown revealed after the game that she and her bat had a heart-to-heart talk on the way to the plate. Actually, it’s probably safer to say it was a monologue. Brown gave no indication that bat had anything to say … at least until a few moments later.

During the walk to the plate, Brown and her bat jointly decided to sell out. As described by Brown, the scene is right out of “Bull Durham”, with Brown reprising Kevin Costner as Crash Davis.

“Before I went up there I looked at my bat and said, ‘You’re going to sell out, so you’re either going to hit it or miss it,’” Brown said

And, when Jenna Edwards’ first pitch caught a significant part of the plate, Brown didn’t hesitate. Her, and her bat, sent the softball sailing toward walk-off land. Given Saturday’s blustery conditions, it was difficult to tell initially whether would sail out of the park.

Now, it was her bat’s turn to do the talking.

However, after taking just a couple steps, Valparaiso outfielders Peyton Moeder and Morgan Matalin pulled up short to watch the ball sail over the fence.

In the micro-seconds between contact and landing, Brown was still unaware that she had become the heroine of this story.

“It just happened to hit the barrel and I saw it fly,” she said. “I was like, ‘Oh, it might go out.’ And, when I saw it land I was like, ‘Holy crap. We just won.’”

Brown said it was her first walk-off experience ever … at any level. And, given her energy and enthusiasm, there was no reason to dispute that.

“Running to home plate with your team there, everyone is jacked up,” she said. “It was a cool feeling. It was a first for me.”

More than an outstanding personal moment for Brown, the walk-off was a huge win for the Salukis.

SIU had clobbered the Crusaders 20-1 in the first game of the doubleheader. In the nightcap, the Salukis squandered early chances to score runs. With SIU trailing in the fifth inning the team appeared to be headed toward a deflating split.

Musing between innings, I mentally wrote the lead to the story, “The SIU softball team scored 22 runs against Valparaiso on Saturday, but that was only good enough for a doubleheader split.”

Splitting a doubleheader after scoring 20 runs in the first game, that’s the kind of thing that can mess with team chemistry and confidence. That kind of letdown can get in your head and have a corrosive effect.

Fortunately for the Salukis, Megan Brown’s bat is a good listener and a bat of action. And, selfishly, the moment turned into one the best postgame interviews in recent memory.

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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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