EDWARDSVILLE – Powerful pitching carried the surging SIUE softball team to a sweep of Tennessee State in its Ohio Valley Conference debut Friday at Cougar Field.
SIUE improved to 24-5 overall and has won 13 of its last 14 games. The Cougars, 2-0 in the OVC, welcome Belmont in a doubleheader starting at 1 p.m. Sunday. Tennessee State, which was limited to four hits and struck out 34 times in 16 innings, dropped to 8-17 and 0-2.
"The pitching was great and both pitchers were lights out," SIUE Head coach Sandy Montgomery said. "Both are very good pitchers and we got a lot of quality innings from them.
She added, "Overall, we played well and I'm happy with two wins. It's huge to win the first two in the conference because it's going to be a grind this season. It's very important to set the tone early."
Chambers-Book pointed the Cougars in the right direction. The senior left-hander struck out a season-best 18 hitters in registering her first no-hitter of the season. It was the fifth, including two perfect games, of her collegiate career.
"I threw pretty well and seemed to keep getting better," Chambers-Book said. "Winning the first two conference games is huge. It can set the tone for the rest of the season."
She was so dominant against the Tigers that they hit only two fair balls the entire game. And only one of them made it to the outfield. Another out was on a foul pop-up to first baseman Schafer. Chambers-Book struck out the side in the second, fourth, sixth and seventh innings.
The Cougars had only four hits in the first game against Tennessee State's Lauren Powell. However, they proved resourceful in scoring twice without a hit in the third inning.
Clinton then scored on a wild pitch for the Cougars first run. Heren moved to third base on the play. Schafer, the next batter, bunted into an out, but the Tigers made a wild throw on the play at third and Heren scampered home.
Those two runs were all Chambers-Book needed in lifting her record to 12-4 and recording her third shutout of the season. The Tigers couldn't catch up with her pitches, particularly her darting rise ball, in a snappy 92-minute game. Kalei Kaneshiro's 2-for-3 outing paced the SIUE offense.
Then it was Ingles' turn to excel.
The freshman right-hander, coming off a one-hit shutout of Northern Kentucky, maintained her magic. She didn't allow a hit until the fifth inning and struck out six consecutive batters, and 10 of 12, from the second through the fifth innings.
Tennessee State didn't get more than one runner on base until the ninth when the Tigers had two on with two outs. Ingles then logged her 16th strikeout, giving the Cougars an opportunity to win it.
And that's what they did, thanks to Schafer. She came through in the clutch with two outs in the ninth.
Heren stirred things by stroking a one-out single and stealing second base. One out later, Schafer lined a single to right center and Heren scored the winner. Schafer, who also had a first-inning double, was 2-for-4 to lead SIUE's five-hit attack.
"I was definitely focused going deep in the count," Schafer said of her game-winning at-bat. "I wanted to get a hit and I got a low pitch to hit."
Montgomery said, "Their pitcher (lefty Lauren Woodard) was keeping the ball away from us, but we got it done at the end."
Next up is 24-7 Belmont, which split an OVC doubleheader Friday at Eastern Illinois. Belmont won the first game 4-3, but EIU prevailed in the second one 3-1.