Haley Chambers pitched her 26th complete game of the season.
JACKSONVILLE, Ala. – Haley Chambers tied her career high with 13 strikeouts as SIUE advanced at the Ohio Valley Conference Softball Championships with a 4-2 victory over Eastern Illinois Thursday at University Field.
Chambers won her 17th game of the season and helped herself on offense with a 3-for-3 performance and an RBI.
"We're certainly excited and very happy with the way we played," said SIUE Head Coach Sandy Montgomery.
With her 26th complete game of the season, Chambers baffled EIU hitters all day. She started the game by fanning the first four batters she faced.
"She is motivated and playing very well right now," said Montgomery. "You can't say enough about the kid. She is a competitor. She loves this team, and she wants to win this tournament. I'm really happy with how she's hitting, let alone her pitching. She is a totally different player this year. She is more mature. I'm really happy she plays for me."
Chambers said she pitched better today than she had in her last outing in which she gave up just two hits.
"I knew I was going to have to pitch better when we faced Eastern," said Chambers. "I relied a lot on my teammates today. They really had my back. I just focused on what coach had been talking about-my power line, spinning my pitches, and placing them. It was all about focus today. I was completely focused all game and it worked out well."
The Cougars, 29-21, jumped on EIU starter Stephanie Maday in the first inning with two runs. Chambers singled home Chelsea Yankolovich and then moved to second on the throw home. The ensuing throw to get Chambers at second was thrown into center field, allowing Allison Smiley to score and put the Cougars up 2-0.
The Panthers changed pitchers in the top of the second with Hanna Mennenga taking over in the circle. SIUE's Kayla Riggs would give the Cougars a 3-0 lead with her second home run of the season, a blast off the light pole in left field.
"We had a good game plan going in against both of their pitchers," said Montgomery. "We watched video. We put a lot of time into the scouting reports. Coach Jones does a great job with that. The kids buy in to that. It's all about execution."
Eastern Illinois, 38-17, was held scoreless until the fifth when Bailey O'Dell hit her fifth home run of the season.
SIUE countered in the bottom of the fifth when Alex McDavid ripped a solo shot to center field.
"I am so proud of them," said Chambers of McDavid and Riggs. "You have no idea what kind of relief that puts on a pitcher when your teammates have your back when they go up to the plate. It's such a good feeling. I am so proud of them. I am so proud of Alex. It's been a long wait for this to happen. I'm just so proud of my team. "
The Cougars had entered the tournament with nine home runs for the season and have now hit three in the first two games of the OVC Tournament.
"Alex smoked that ball," said Montgomery. "Riggs smoked one. Obviously yesterday Chelsea came up big."
The Panthers finished off the scoring in the sixth Hannah Cole hit her sixth home run of the season.
SIUE moves on in the winner's bracket and will play at 3 p.m. Friday against the winner of the Murray State-Jacksonville State game.