Northern Iowa opens the Missouri Valley Conference post season tournament this morning with a first round matchup against Southern Illinois. The Panthers will be looking for a repeat of the 2001 tournament in which they claimed the Valley title and advanced to the N-C-A-A regionals. U-N-I coach Rick Heller says the Panthers need to grab momentum in the opener after making the tournament for the third year in a row. He says the first year it was big just to make it to the tourney. He says they need to win the first game to stay out of the losers bracket, and feels they should do well as they have a good hitting team.Heller says the percentages favor the Panthers in the opener. Southern Illinois swept a four-game series in Carbondale to open the league race, and he says it’s tough for anyone to beat you five straight times. Heller says the Salukis are sound in all phases, with good experience, and one of the best pitchers in the conference starting.
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