Laurie Anne Derrico led a rally from the bottom of Wichita State’s lineup Friday against Southern Illinois.
Derrico, a freshman shortstop from Sterling, Okla., went 2 for 2 with three RBIs in the top-seeded Shockers’ 7-5 win in the Missouri Valley Conference tournament semifinals. Her three-run homer in the bottom of the second inning began a seven-run rally that put Wichita State one win from the NCAA tournament.
The Shockers play second-seeded Drake (30-23) at 1 p.m. Saturday for the Valley’s automatic bid. Drake beat Illinois State 6-1 in the other semifinal.
“I think we knew from our past that we needed to stay focused the entire game, because the game can change just like that from one hit,” Derrico said.
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Derrico’s home run over the left-field wall at West Stadium, her third this season against the Salukis (33-19), brought the Shockers (34-18) back from the dead. SIU scored three runs in the top of the first against Wichita State starter Jenni Brooks (17-6) and had two outs in the Shockers’ second.
Macklin Hitz walked to lead off the second but was forced out at second off a fielder’s choice. Brittany Fortner, who hit into the fielder’s choice, went to second on Ashley Johnson’s single in front of left fielder Eyrika Brandenburg. Derrico’s home run was just the third allowed by SIU starter Savanna Dover (9-8) this season and one of six hits from the bottom four of the Shockers’ order.
“Any time you’re manufacturing in the bottom half of your order, you’re going to have some success, and I thought they did a really nice job today of getting us going there,” Wichita State coach Kristi Bredbenner said.
MVC player of the year Caci Williams went 0 for 3 with two walks, but the Shockers still won their first game at the tournament since 2010. Paige Luellen put Wichita State up 5-3 in the fourth with a two-run single, and pitchers Jenni Brooks and Katie Malone combined on a six-hitter.
Brooks retired 13 straight batters after giving up the three-spot at the beginning of the game. Malone entered with the bases loaded in the sixth with two outs, and got Savannah Fisher to fly out to left on a full count to end the threat.
“They threw her a changeup on a 3-2 count, which, sometimes, you probably don’t expect,” SIU coach Kerri Blaylock said. “I thought she just missed it, quite honestly. A high pop-fly. Same pitch that she got a game-winning hit against SEMO, and some other things, so she sees the changeup pretty well. I’m just proud of the way they responded.”
SIU ended its best season since going 36-20 in 2012 and could return eight starters and all three pitchers next season.
Wichita State earned the top seed’s first win at the Valley tournament in six years. The Shockers will wrap up their first tournament title since 1992 if they’re able to knock off the Bulldogs for the fourth time this year.
5 6 3
7 9 1
W — Brooks (17-6). L — Dover (9-8). Save — Malone (4). HR — WSU: Derrico.
WSU batting: Williams 0-3, Wright 1-4, Luellen 1-4, Hitz 0-2, Broyles 0-4, Fortner 1-3, Johnson 2-3, Derrico 2-2, Spring 1-2, Adams 1-1.
WSU pitching: Brooks 5 2/3 IP-5 ER, Malone 1 1/3-0.