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Softball to host SIUE series for fourth time in five years with huge OVC Tournament implications at stake


Because of a quirk in the Ohio Valley Conference scheduling, Southern Illinois-Edwardsville is coming to Morehead State to play its fourth league series in the last five years when the two teams tangle on Friday and Saturday at the University Field. The first two games will take place at noon and 2:30 p.m. on the opening day and conclude with a single contest at noon on Saturday. The series shifted away from a Saturday-Sunday schedule due to the Easter holiday.

Games one and two can be viewed on ESPN+ at the links: https://www.espn.com/watch/player/_/id/bdef7f9a-3d83-4543-9bda-3a931729bded?om-navmethod=espn%3Aglobalsearch%3Aresults (game one) and https://www.espn.com/watch/player/_/id/a78c99ec-c40b-464f-bcda-c3f81840f94a?om-navmethod=espn%3Aglobalsearch%3Aresults (game two).

Live stats are also available for all three contests, with game one: http://stats.statbroadcast.com/statmonitr/?id=383274, game two: http://stats.statbroadcast.com/statmonitr/?id=383275 and game three: http://stats.statbroadcast.com/statmonitr/?id=383276.

The Eagles enter the weekend in the middle of what has become a seven-game home stand. Five recent contests were either postponed or canceled due to weather and field conditions, including a pair on Wednesday against Rio Grande. Morehead State (2-27/1-12) is 2-6 at home this season with a 1-6 mark in league games.

The Eagles have dropped their last seven contests and their previous four at home since defeating Austin Peay 9-1 in five innings on March 27. In its most recent outings, MSU fell to UT Martin 9-0 (in five innings) and 2-0 this past Sunday.

Assuming, Morehead State completes all five remaining games in its home stand, it will be the team's longest stretch of contests at the University Field since hosting 10 in a row in March 2019. The Eagles only played 14 home games last season and went 3-11.

"It should be a very competitive series against SIUE with the range of pitching that they have. We've been practicing all week on our individual hitting approaches," said MSU coach Samantha Jones. "We've been able to get out(side) to practice the past two days, which has been great."

With just under a month remaining in the regular season, the Eagles are four games out of eighth place, which is the cutoff mark to make the OVC Tournament. The league championship will run from May 11-14 at Choccolocco Park in Oxford, Ala. SIUE currently holds the No. 8 position.

Two Eagles enter on a hot streak at the plate. Both juniors, outfielder Madeline Gailor and infielder Kirya Kingery have reached base nine times in the team's latest contests. Gailor's streak is out of 10 games (and 12 of the last 15), while Kingery has achieved the total in 11 outings.

Senior infielder Peyton Rose remains among the national leaders in being hit by a pitch. In the latest Division I statistics, she sits seventh at 0.39 times per game, although at least twice this season she was hit by a pitch but not been awarded first base.

Gailor is the lone Eagle to hit above .300 (.333). She also owns team highs in RBI (12), slugging percentage (.412), on-base percentage (.404) and stolen bases (eight). Among those with at least 50 at bats this season, Kingery is next in batting average at .250, with senior catcher/infielder Peyton Slater third at .237. Slater also sits in a tie for second with freshman outfielder Ieesha Christian with seven RBI. Christian is atop the squad in walks with 11 and is second in stolen bases with seven.

In the circle, sophomore Lennon Spicer is 2-13 with a 5.41 ERA, 58 strikeouts and 37 walks in 79 innings. Freshman Madi Ogden is 0-8 with a 5.89 ERA, 33 strikeouts and 39 walks in 52 and one-third innings.

SIUE (14-23/5-9) enters Friday coming off a 3-2 road win at Saint Louis on Tuesday, which snapped a string of eight consecutive road defeats. Prior to that, the Cougars dropped its last four games, including all three in their weekend road series at Tennessee Tech, after having previously won five in a row in conference play. The squad is 1-13 as a true road team this spring and has an overall record of 8-19 away from home. The weekend series ends an eight-game road swing for the team.

Sophomore outfielder/pitcher Lexi King leads her club with a .345 batting average. She also has a team-best nine stolen bases, while also adding 19 RBI, nine doubles, three homers, a .531 slugging percentage and a .386 on-base percentage. Freshman outfielder Lauryn Yslava is hitting .330 and also has six doubles, four homers and 19 RBI. Sophomore catcher/third baseman Grace Lueke is the squad's power hitter with nine homers, five doubles and a team-high 27 RBI. She also has walked 16 times and adds a .311 batting average and a .621 slugging percentage.

King also boasts the club's lowest ERA at 3.79. As a pitcher, she owns a 4-3 record and has 20 strikeouts against 16 walks in 40.2 innings. The Cougars' workhorse is sophomore Mia Haynes, who is 5-12, with a 4.93 ERA, 81 strikeouts and 44 walks in 102 and one-third innings. Sophomore Sydney Baalman has a 4-6 record, a 5.58 ERA, along with 35 strikeouts and 34 walks in 57 and two-thirds innings.

SIUE joined the OVC in 2008-09 and that spring it faced MSU for the first time with the Eagles winning 4-1 in Indianapolis. The two teams have met every year since except 2020. The Cougars own one of the best all-time records versus MSU at 25-3, including a 17-1 mark in Morehead. SIUE has won the last 10 overall meetings and 16 straight at the University Field. In addition, the Cougars are 10-0-1 in the history of the in-season series.

The two teams have played in Morehead in every annual set of match-ups since 2017, with SIUE posting a 9-0 mark during that time. Most recently, it won 5-0 on May 2, 2021, and 8-1 and 5-0 the previous day. MSU's lone home win (5-2) came on March 10, 2010. Its last overall victory was 6-2 on April 9, 2016, at SIUE. Coach Jones is 0-5 all-time against the Cougars.

The two teams have played 10 one-run games, with SIUE winning nine of them.

"We are excited to get on our field and play again in front of our home crowd before we travel next weekend," coach Jones said. "The girls are anticipating a series that has always been competitive in our four years here."

MSU stays in Morehead to complete its home stand on Monday with a make-up doubleheader against Rio Grande. The twin bill was originally scheduled for Monday, but moved up to last Tuesday when Shawnee State had to cancel at the last minute. However, because of wet field conditions and anticipated storms, the contests were moved back to the initial date. The first game is slated for a 2 p.m. start.