The all-time winningest coach in Southern Illinois softball history, Kerri Blaylock enters her 21st season at the helm of the Salukis.
During her tenure, SIU has advanced to the NCAA postseason seven times, which includes being the only program in conference history to make five-straight trips from 2003-07. Southern earned an at-large bid to the 2019 NCAA Tournament, which marked the second time in the last three seasons that the Salukis have advanced to a NCAA Regional.
Blaylock’s Salukis have posted 17 30-win seasons, including four 40-win seasons and a program-best 47 wins in 2005. The 2019 team won 17 conference games, the program’s most since 2005, and posted a winning record in conference play for the 24th-straight season. SIU has compiled a 693-383-1 record under Blaylock and continues to reach new heights.
One of the winningest active Division I coaches in softball today, Blaylock has guided SIU to national prominence throughout her distinguished career. The 2003 team earned SIU’s first-ever NFCA/USA Today Top-25 ranking, and the following season Southern opened and finished the 2004 season ranked in the NFCA Top-25 Coaches poll. All told, SIU has won five conference titles and made eight NCAA Tournament appearances with Blaylock on the staff.
As a head coach, Blaylock has led SIU to four MVC titles with seven NCAA Tournament appearances while producing 98 All-Conference selections. She holds a .671 winning percentage in MVC games (321-157) and has been a member of five MVC Coaching Staffs of the Year. She is the fastest coach in MVC history to reach 500 wins overall and 250 MVC wins. On Feb. 23, 2018, Blaylock became the program’s all-time winningest coach with a 5-4, 10-inning win over UConn.
SIU has led the Valley in team earned run average 11 times since 1993 and have finished in the top-3 in the league in the category in 14 of head coach Kerri Blaylock’s 20 seasons at the helm. Southern led the league in strikeouts for five consecutive years from 1998 to 2002, setting an MVC record with 500 strikeouts in 2000. The Salukis have also produced four Missouri Valley Conference Pitchers of the Year in Erin Stremsterfer (2001), Amy Harre (2005), Cassidy Scoggins (2006) and Danielle Glosson (2010) during that stretch and Blaylock has been on the coaching staff at SIU for 30 no-hitters.
In addition to Southern’s on-field success, Blaylock’s teams have consistently ranked among the nation’s best in the classroom as well. SIU has ranked among the top 20 nationally in team GPA every season since 2001 with seven top-five finishes. The Salukis ranked second nationally for team GPA in both 2007 and 2011. SIU players have earned 89 MVC Scholar-Athlete awards and 12 Academic All-America honors under Blaylock. The Salukis have also tallied 26 Academic All-Americans, second to only Nebraska for the most of any DI softball program. The NCAA began giving out Public Recognition Awards in 2003 for programs in the top-10 percent in their sport in APR over each four-year rolling period. SIU was the first MVC softball program to earn the distinction, and Blaylock’s programs have earned the honor a league-best seven times.
YEAR-BY-YEAR AT SIU
Blaylock took the reins of the program in 2000 after the retirement of Kay Brechtelsbauer, who coached SIU for 32 years. Blaylock served nine seasons as an assistant under Brechtelsbauer, including five as the team's pitching coach.
Saluki softball didn't falter during the transition from Brechtelsbauer to Blaylock. As a first-year head coach in 2000, Blaylock led SIU to a 41-22 record, the first 40-win season since the Salukis went 41-16 in 1997. SIU has finished in the top half the MVC in each of the 16 seasons since.
SIU finished in the top three in the MVC each year from 2001-03 with Blaylock's staff earning MVC Coaching Staff of the Year in both 2002 and 2003. Individually, SIU had the MVC's Rookie of the Year in both 2002 (Amy Harre) and 2003 (Katie Louis). The 2003 Salukis went 39-14 and earned the program's first NCAA Tournament bid since 1991. SIU advanced to the Regional final in the 2003 NCAA Tournament for the program's first-ever Sweet 16 appearance.
Blaylock broke through with her first MVC championship as a head coach in 2004, setting a then-program record for wins with a 45-17 overall record with an 18-6 mark in the Valley. The Salukis followed up by setting a new MVC record for wins in 2005 that still stands today. SIU went 47-14 and set a program record for conference wins with a 24-3 mark in the Valley to win its second-consecutive MVC title. The 2004 and 2005 teams both advanced to the NCAA Tournament and Blaylock's staff also made it four-straight seasons by being named the MVC's Staff of the Year in 2004 and 2005.
SIU earned at-large bids to the NCAA Tournament in both 2006 and 2007, becoming the only program in MVC history to reach five-consecutive NCAA Tournaments. The 2007 squad spent a school-record 13-consecutive weeks ranked in the top 25 nationally, including a program-best No. 18 ranking.
SIU finished third in the MVC in 2008 with Lauren Haas earning the program's first Valley Player of the Year honor since 1997. In 2009, SIU had its best start in school history at 13-1 and went on to finish second in the MVC. The Salukis made it back into the national rankings again in 2009, tying a program-best by elevating as high as No. 18.
The 2010 season saw SIU climb back atop the MVC standings for the third Valley title of the Blaylock era, and the program was rewarded with its fifth MVC Coaching Staff of the Year honor under Blaylock. The Salukis followed up with a pair of 36-win seasons in 2011 and 2012 as Mallory Duran-Sellers became the second MVC Player of the Year under Blaylock in 2012.
The program won 74 games between 2013-15, including a third-place finish in the MVC in the 2014 campaign. Blaylock's 2016 team again led the MVC in ERA and won 33 games, including 15 in league play. The 2016 team swept Illinois State for the first time since 2005 and won the series over Northern Iowa for the first time since 2010.
In 2017, Blaylock led the Salukis to the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament Championship and the seventh NCAA Tournament appearance in school history. Southern posted a 33-24 record with wins over Missouri State, Illinois State and UNI on the way to the conference tournament title. The Salukis faced off against Ole Miss and North Carolina in the Oxford Regional of the NCAA Tournament. Blaylock also recorded her 600th career victory that season in a 4-2 victory over Michigan State.
In 2018, the Herrin, Ill. native led the Salukis to their third-straight 30-win season, and the 16th 30-win season in her 19 seasons as SIU’s skipper. Southern also advanced to the MVC Championship game for the second-straight season and the Salukis led the Missouri Valley Conference in runs, home runs and runs batted in. It marked the first time since 2005 that Southern led the league in round-trippers.
The 2019 season was yet another banner year for the program. SIU reached the 30-win plateau for the 17th time in the last 20 seasons, posted their most conference wins (17) since 2005 and earned the program’s 12th trip to the NCAA Tournament. Southern also posted the third-best fielding percentage in the nation and won a NCAA Regional game for the first time since 2007 with a walk-off win over Detroit Mercy.
Blaylock had a stellar playing career in addition to her coaching successes. She was considered one of the top three pitchers in the state as a prep at nearby Herrin High School, according to the Chicago Tribune, compiling a record of 65-7 from 1980-84. She set marks for wins and strikeouts for Herrin High and became the first female athlete ever selected to the Herrin High School Hall of Fame in 1992.
Following her successful prep career, Blaylock attended the University of Evansville, where she developed into one of the Aces' all-time leading hurlers. During her career, she put together a record of 77-48 with a 1.54 ERA and struck out 365 hitters in 857.2 innings of work. Blaylock still holds virtually all of Evansville's pitching records.
Blaylock excelled as a student-athlete both on and off the field at UE. As a junior, she was named a GTE Academic All-American, and in 1988, she was named the Midwestern Collegiate Conference Player of the Year. Evansville recognized Blaylock's success on the diamond by inducting her into the school's Hall of Fame in 1995.
After graduating from Evansville in 1988 with a bachelor's degree in accounting, Blaylock attended Southeast Missouri State University where she began her coaching career as a graduate assistant. She later received a master's degree in 1991 in business administration.