Home Local Sports USI Softball’s season ends just short of OVC championship-round appearance

USI Softball’s season ends just short of OVC championship-round appearance


PEORIA, Ill. – University of Southern Indiana Softball avoided elimination in the Ohio Valley Conference Tournament early Friday with a 4-1 victory against Tennessee State University, but the Screaming Eagles’ deepest-ever run in the OVC Tournament came up a game short of a championship round appearance late Friday after a 3-2 loss in eight innings against Eastern Illinois University.
In the morning matinee against no. 3 Tennessee State (26-25), Southern Indiana’s bats were working from the first pitch in the top of the first inning. Back-to-back singles by the top of the order got things rolling. A few batters later, freshman infielder Sydney Long (Haubstadt, Indiana) drove in the first run before a productive RBI out by junior infielder Hailey Gotshall (Lucerne, Indiana) put USI up 2-0. Then junior Whitley Hunter (Nashville, Illinois), hitting in the designated player spot, brought home two more runs on a hit to the opposite field. The 4-seeded Screaming Eagles tallied four runs on four hits in the top of the first.
The game turned into a defensive pitching duel. Both starting pitchers, junior Josie Newman (Indianapolis, Indiana) for USI and senior Cailtyn Manus for Tennessee State, settled into a groove. The two hurlers posted zeroes on the scoreboard until the seventh inning when the Tigers tallied a solo home run, but Newman closed the door on Tennessee State after that.
USI scored its four runs on nine hits with Long leading the way with three hits and Hunter with two RBIs.
Newman earned her 22nd win of the season, allowing one run off three hits with a pair of strikeouts in the complete game. Tennessee State’s Manus dropped to 12-13 after also going the distance.
After defeating Tennessee State, Southern Indiana had to wait and find out who its afternoon opponent would be. USI eventually drew a rematch from Thursday’s contest against top-seeded Eastern Illinois (40-16), who fell in the middle of the day against no. 2 Southeast Missouri State University.
The win-or-go-home contest against Eastern Illinois started with three shutout innings. The Panthers broke through first with a solo home run in the top of the fourth inning. However, Southern Indiana equalized the home run in the bottom of the fourth when Newman provided her own run support with a solo home run to left field to tie the game at one.
Newman and Eastern Illinois senior pitcher Olivia Price pitched three more consecutive scoreless innings. Although USI put the potential go-ahead run on base in the sixth and seventh innings, the game carried on into extra innings still tied 1-1.
In the top of the eighth inning, the Panthers quickly generated momentum by getting the first three batters on base to load the bases. A sac fly gave EIU a 2-1 advantage and an RBI single made it a 3-1 deficit for the Screaming Eagles to come back from.
Southern Indiana did not go quietly, getting the first two batters on base and advancing both into scoring position with a sacrifice. Newman recorded her second RBI with a single to bring USI within one, but that was all USI scored as Eastern Illinois halted the comeback bid to end the Screaming Eagles’ 2024 season.
USI had two runs on six hits against EIU. Senior first baseman Lexi Fair (Greenwood, Indiana) had two hits while Newman finished with three and two RBIs.
On the pitching side, Newman went all eight innings and struck out four. Newman finished the season with a 22-10 record. Eastern Illinois’ Price moved to 12-9 with the win after surrendering two runs – one earned – in eight innings of work.
Southern Indiana ended the season with a 25-22 overall record. The Screaming Eagles went 16-11 to finish fourth in the Ohio Valley Conference regular season. Both win totals surpassed USI’s marks in 2023. Plus, the Screaming Eagles went deeper into the Ohio Valley Conference Softball Championship Tournament compared to last season, as USI fell just short of an appearance in the championship round. Now the program will turn its attention to preparing for 2025 and taking another step forward.