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SIUE Defeats Toledo in Home Opener

Kalei Kaneshiro
Kalei Kaneshiro

EDWARDSVILLE – It's 20 wins and counting for the surging SIUE softball team.

The Cougars won their ninth consecutive game and improved to 20-4 by defeating Toledo 3-2 Friday in their home debut and SIUE Tournament opener.

"It was a nerve-wracking home opener, but we will get back to work and be ready to go tomorrow," SIUE Head Coach Sandy Montgomery said after the Cougars shaded the Rockets.

SIUE resumes tournament action at noon Saturday against 11-16 Ball State.

Haley Chambers-Book and Kalei Kaneshiro made sure the Cougars extended their winning ways.

Chambers, a senior left-hander struck out 13, just one shy of her 2017 season-high. She fanned 14 against Louisiana-Monroe on Feb. 11 and 14 versus Evansville on Feb. 17. Her career-high is 20, set two years ago.

This time, Chambers-Book scattered seven hits and hiked her record to 10-3 by winning her fourth in succession.

"Even when Haley doesn't have her best stuff, she finds a way to get it done," Montgomery said. "She uses all of her pitches to do it."

Kaneshiro, a freshman third baseman, supplied the biggest hit of the game. Her one-out single in the fifth snapped a 2-2 tie and brought home pinch-runner Conner Cutright with the decisive run.

Cutright ran for Reagan Curtis, who had doubled after Zoe Schafer singled. The Cougars had runners on second and third with none out.

Pinch-runner Abby Marlow then was cut down at the plate on Allison Smiley's infield grounder. Cutright moved to third on the play before Kaneshiro came through in the clutch.

"Coach told me to play angry, so I went to the plate and smacked the ball," Kaneshiro said of her first-pitch hit to left field.

She added, "We really wanted to win our first game at home, and this is a good win for us and a good start to the weekend."

Montgomery noted, "Kalei has had quite a few big hits for us so far this season. She has the right mentality and I expect a lot of big things from her."

Schafer went 3 for 3 – all singles to spur the Cougars' 10-hit attack.

"She is a true hitter," Montgomery said of Schafer, a freshman first baseman.

Tess Eby doubled in a run during SIUE's two-run second, and Sarah Lopesilvero drove her home with a single. The Cougars survived even though they stranded eight base runners against Toledo starter and losing pitcher Kailey Minarchick. The Rockets left six on base.

"That's too many for my liking," Montgomery said of the eight runners LOB.

Yet eight of the nine starters hit safely and that encouraged her. "We have a balanced lineup and the bottom of the order came through for us," Montgomery said.

The 11-18 Rockets, who beat Butler 6-0 in Friday's tournament opener, meet Northern Kentucky at 2 p.m. Saturday. The 3-13 Norse tangle with 11-12 Butler at 10 a.m. in Saturday's first of four games.

Three more games are scheduled Sunday, including SIUE's noon contest against Northern Kentucky.

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