Kerri Blaylock Leaves Legacy Of Excellence At SIU
After 22 years at the helm of Southern Illinois University's program, Kerri Blaylock retired from coaching earlier this year.
Blaylock began her head coaching run at SIU back in 2000 as just the second head coach in the program's history, taking over for Dr. Kay Brechtelsbauer. She ended her coaching career this past spring, due to health reasons, with a record of 751-413-1.
Blaylock began her coaching career as a graduate assistant at Southeast Missouri State.
“I thought that I was going to be an accountant, and when I was going to get my master’s degree, I was a pitching coach at Southeast Missouri State,” Blaylock told Softball America. “After two years there, I kind of didn't realize that coaching could be a career until the head coach at Southern Illinois gave me the opportunity to come over and start working part time as a pitching coach in 1990, and the rest is history.”
Blaylock became the winningest coach in school history, male or female, during her 2021 campaign. During her time with the Salukis, she led them to eight NCAA Tournament appearances and finished in the top 10 nationally in team GPA more times than any other program in the nation.
“I stayed as an assistant for nine years, and then moved into the head coaching role and was there for 22 years,” Blaylock added. “I had several opportunities to leave throughout my career and go to Power Five programs. I realized that I was just more of a mid-major type of coach. I love the connection that I can feel with the kids. We compete like a Power Five school, while still having that family atmosphere.”
Throughout her career, Blaylock’s biggest focus was creating a foundation of culture, which led her teams to success over the years.
“I think when I started as a head coach it was very important to me to have a sound culture,” Blaylock said. “It was very important to talk about unselfishness. That's a very big core belief. Nobody is bigger than the team,” Blaylock said.
Last December, Blaylock was voted into the National Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA) Hall of Fame thanks to her stellar career. She credits much of the success she had as a coach to the great athletes she and her staff were able to recruit over the years.
“To gain as much success as we have with a mid-major program, you have to have great pitching, which we've always had,” Blaylock said. “You also have to have great position players, kids offensively that can get after it, but because of the culture, I feel like we've always kind of played with a chip on our shoulder that we have something to prove.”
Blaylock’s head coach position was passed down to long-time associate head coach Jennifer Sewell. Blaylock and Sewell coached together for 14 years at Southern Illinois. She will begin her first year as head coach in 2023.
“We’ve recruited a lot of kids that could go to a lot of different programs. They could’ve gone to other mid-majors, they could’ve gone to Power Five schools, but they came here because they wanted to be part of the family atmosphere that we've built,” Blaylock added. “We've got the longevity of it as we've been to several NCAA Tournaments and won several conference championships over the long haul, and that's because of the kids who play here.”