The Southern Illinois University Edwardsville softball team clinched the 2015 Ohio Valley Conference regular season title and will be the host for the league tournament next week at Cougar Field.
SIUE, 20-5 in OVC play and 39-13 overall, bested Eastern Illinois 7-2 in the first game of a doubleheader at Williams Field. The Panthers won the nightcap Saturday 4-3.
As the regular-season champion, SIUE will be the No. 1 seed for the eight-team, double-elimination tournament that starts Wednesday at Cougar Field. The complete eight-team field and game times will be announced Sunday after the conclusion of the league regular season schedule.
"There no doubt that's awesome," said SIUE first baseman Rachel Keller. "Getting that first win and winning the regular season is big. I'm glad to be a part of it."
Never miss a local story.
In game one, Haley Chambers went the distance for the Cougars and improved to an OVC-best 22-5 record. The left-handed junior struck out 16 batters.
"That was outstanding," said SIUE coach Sandy Montgomery. "She was throwing well and had command of her pitches."
The Cougars left little doubt Saturday in controlling their own destiny as the top seed by scoring six runs in the first inning against the Panthers. SIUE took advantage of two early errors that led to RBI singles by Keller and Tess Eby.
Keller went toe to toe with EIU starting pitcher Jessica Wireman, pushing the count to 3-2 after fighting off some pitches for foul balls.
"Finally I got one I could drive," Keller said.
Jordan LaFave capped the first inning with a two-run double down the left field line as SIUE sent 10 batters to the plate in the opening inning. LaFave raised her batting average to .321 this season.
Allison Smiley added an RBI single in the fourth inning that put the Cougars up 7-0.
EIU scored its only runs in the bottom of the fifth on RBI singles by Katie Watson and April Markowski.
In game two, SIUE nearly came from behind in the top of the seventh. Down 4-2, Alex McDavid led off the seventh with a single and scored on a base hit to left field by Chambers.
EIU's Michelle Rogers held off the Cougars for the pitching victory.