USI endures 16-inning series opener, wins second game at SIUE


EDWARDSVILLE, Ill. – University of Southern Indiana Softball played a marathon 16-inning game to open its weekend series at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville on Saturday, getting edged 2-1, before capturing a 4-2 victory in the late cap of a doubleheader.

Saturday’s 16-inning series opener was three innings shy of the longest game in USI Softball history against Columbus State University in March 1999. The last time a USI Softball game went at least 15 innings was a 16-inning affair in April 2005 against the University of Missouri-St. Louis.

Junior pitcher Josie Newman (Indianapolis, Indiana) went mano-a-mano against SIUE senior pitcher Sydney Baalman in the pitching circle. Newman set a new career high with 15.2 innings pitched while throwing 189 pitches (138 for strikes). Her counterpart, Baalman, made 250 pitches (154 for strikes) in 16 innings of work.

Newman set the tone early by striking out the side in order in the first inning and fanning the first four batters faced. Both pitchers were dialed in, posting zeroes through the first four frames.

It was in the top of the fifth inning when the Screaming Eagles struck first. A double by Newman was followed by an RBI double from freshman infielder Sydney Long (Haubstadt, Indiana) to give USI a 1-0 lead.

Southern Indiana maintained its 1-0 advantage, looking to close out the game in the bottom of the seventh, but SIUE did not surrender. The Cougars tied the game at one after back-to-back doubles to push the game into extra innings.

SIUE threatened with a runner in scoring position in the bottom of the ninth inning, but the duel between starting pitchers carried on. USI had its chances with a runner in scoring position in the 11th and 12th innings but could not get one across home plate. The stalemate continued.

USI had runners at second and third with one out in the top of the 15th, but SIUE was able to get out of the jam. Reaching the bottom of the 16th inning, SIUE had a leadoff single and advanced the runner to third before a one-out sac fly was deep enough to left field to bring in the game-winning run.

SIUE’s Baalman struck out nine, allowed one run off 10 hits and five walks, and improved to 4-13 on the season. Newman dropped to 14-8 with the hard-luck loss after giving up two runs – one earned – off eight hits with 13 strikeouts.

Newman’s performance pushed her OVC-leading season totals for strikeouts to 188 and innings pitched to 162.2. Both totals would rank in the top five in the nation, but USI does not qualify for official NCAA statistical rankings as a reclassifying program. Through Saturday, Newman has already set career highs this season for complete games (21), innings (162.2), and strikeouts (188).

In the second game of the twin bill, USI wasted no time generating some offense in the first inning. The Screaming Eagles got runners to second and third before senior Lexi Fair (Greenwood, Indiana) doubled home a run. A sac fly by senior Sammie Kihega (Greenfield, Indiana) brought in a second run, giving USI a 2-0 advantage.

While sophomore pitcher Raegan Gibson (Louisville, Kentucky) started the game and was in good rhythm through the first three innings, Southern Indiana doubled its lead in the fourth inning. Following a leadoff double by Kihega and a single from Sydney Long, freshman infielder Shelby Stivers (Louisville, Kentucky) doubled to right field to drive in both Kihega and Long to put USI ahead 4-0.

The Cougars would answer with two runs off a solo home run and an RBI single to cut the Screaming Eagles’ lead in half, 4-2, through four innings.

From that point on, Gibson and Southern Indiana’s defense shut out SIUE to even the weekend series.

The performance by Gibson was her first win of the season, improving to 1-3, and her first career complete game. Gibson’s previous career mark for innings pitched was 5.1 innings against the University of St. Thomas earlier this season on USI’s opening weekend.

SIUE’s senior pitcher Kelsey Ray was dealt the loss, moving to 7-7 this season. Ray lasted 3.2 innings, allowing four runs and two earned before handing the ball off to sophomore hurler Rylie Pindel for the final 3.1 innings.

Following the doubleheader split, Southern Indiana went to 17-18 on the season and 11-9 in the Ohio Valley Conference. SIUE ended the day 15-28 overall and 7-13 in conference play.