EDWARDSVILLE, Ill. – SIUE softball guaranteed its spot in next month's Ohio Valley Conference Tournament with a sweep Saturday over Tennessee Tech at Cougar Field.
SIUE defeated visiting Tennessee Tech 3-0 and 3-2 to improve to 33-8 overall and 16-2 in the OVC. The Cougars extended their winning streak to 16 games, the third longest streak in Division I softball.
The top eight teams advance to the OVC Tournament May 9-11 which will be hosted by the No. 1 seed. It will be SIUE's second trip to the conference tourney. Now the Cougars are battling for the best possible seed and are one-half game behind Eastern Illinois for the best OVC record.
The Golden Eagles, now 19-23 overall and 8-8 in the OVC, certainly didn't hand anything to the Cougars.
"We're pretty tired after that one. That was a little mentally grueling. It was a nail-biter," said SIUE Head Coach Sandy Montgomery.
SIUE pitcher Erin Greenwalt picked up her 10th victory of the season in the nightcap. She scattered eight hits and struck out three.
"Erin seems to find her way into jams, but she also gets herself out of them. She certainly executed pitches when she needed," Montgomery said.
SIUE's offense didn't score until the fourth when the momentum shifted on a home run by Kayla Riggs, her second of the season.
"It was a hit and run," Riggs said. "She just laid it over the plate, and I got ahold of it."
"She hit all of it too," added Montgomery.
The Cougars grabbed a 2-1 lead after Riggs' homer and added what turned out to be the game winner in the fifth.
Rebecca Gray doubled to right field to start the inning. After Chelsea Yankolovich bunted her over to third, Taylor Tooley put down a perfect bunt. Her squeeze bunt resulted in not only a run but also an infield single.
Greenwalt outdueled Golden Eagles pitcher Claudia Harke, now 5-8.
In the opener, Haley Chambers threw her sixth shutout of the season with a two-hitter. Chambers matched her season high with 13 strikeouts. She previously fanned 13 against SIU Carbondale in a 12-inning game.
Chambers has now won 16 consecutive decisions and improved to 18-2. She is now tied for fourth all-time in victories by a freshman with Michelle Cox (1990) and Montgomery (1982). The all-time record is 24 by Becki Saylor in 1980.
The Cougar offense consisted solely of solo home runs in Saturday's opener.
Tooley got the Cougars started in the first inning with her fourth home run of the season. She is now tied for fourth all-time with 19 career home runs, even with Alicia DeShasier (2003-2006).
SIUE's final two home runs came in the third inning. Rebecca Gray launched her first of the season. Gray, who bats from the left side, hit it over the fence in right field just in front of the scoreboard in right center.
Alex McDavid added her ninth blast of the season that forced TTU to lift starter Taylor Ketchum, 13-9.
SIUE's weekend continues Sunday with a doubleheader against Jacksonville State at Cougar Field. The pitch is scheduled for 1 p.m.