Despite losing nearly 50 percent of its home runs from last season, Missouri Western’s coach Jen Bagley isn’t too worried about her top-ten team. The Griffons are winning a different way than round trippers.
No. 10 ranked Western continued its dominance in the circle behind 2011 MIAA Freshman of the Year Jackie Bishop, as it completed a two-game sweep against Northwest Missouri State Friday at Griffon Springs Sports Complex, winning 9-0 (five innings) and 8-3.
The Griffons notched 59 home runs in 2011, but lost senior top hitters in Brittany Douglas (15 home runs) and Toni Dance (13). No game proved how powerful Western’s sluggers were than its six-homer game when the two teams matched up last year.
This season, Western powered Northwest again, but instead of belting ball across the fence, its defense gave the Bearcats trouble.
“I did not sleep very well last night because I watched (Northwest) hit against Wayne State’s pitching, and they were just lighting it up all over the place,” Bagley said. “Coming into today, I was really worried about us being able to come and be present defensively and be able to handle the ball in the circle. But we did so that was good.”
Bishop threw nine strikes and gave up one hit in just five innings, as the Griffons collected a 9-0 run-rule win against their rivals.
The sophomore pitched a shutout for the third time and improved her record to 12-1 to help Western (23-4, 6-0 MIAA) keep the Bearcats (11-11, 2-2) off the board.
In 13 starts, Bishop has a 1.05 ERA and 123 strike outs. The starter threw 224 in 2011 — a Western record — and is on pace to take the record down.
“I know I have a really good outfield and infield to back me up,” Bishop said. “So I’m not really ever to worked up out there. I’m just trying to get the job done.”
Friday afternoon, Western’s hitting wasn’t too bad either. Helped by three errors from Northwest in the first game, Western jumped out to a 4-0 lead after two innings.
Keri Lorbert singled to left field, followed by Taylor Anding’s pop to first base. An error at first base saved Anding and advanced Erin Widrig, who was pitch hitting for Lorbert, to third.
Leah Steele hit a sacrifice bunt on the next play, but Northwest catcher Kylie Cantrell was unable to scoop up the grounder and tag Widrig at home plate, scoring Western’s first run.
Katherine Steponovich sent a ball to the right field that scored Anding seconds later, which followed another error by the Bearcats when Steele ran home and Cantrell couldn’t bring in the long throw to home plate.
The Griffons have just 12 home runs halfway through the season, a far stretch from their total in 2011, but give up less than three runs a game.
“We have a good balance,” Bagley said. “I think if we continue to play good defense and we continue to pitch (well), we’ll find ways to score runs.”
Nebraska-Omaha transfer Sarah Elliott scored Steponovich on the next bat, giving the Griffons the 4-0 lead against the Bearcats.
Maegan Roemmich started the Griffons fourth inning with a single to left field, producing a five-run inning to mark the score 9-0. Roemmich finished with four hits on five at-bats and two RBIs.
“It’s a compliment to be ranked tenth, but right now it doesn’t mean anything,” Roemmich said. “We just got to win. I’m just having fun out there.”
In game two Western took advantage of five Bearcat errors to snag a 5-0 lead through four innings.
Northwest crept back into the game after it belted two homers in the fifth, one by Cantrell and another by second baseman Hailee Hendricks off new-comer Annalee Rubio.
However, the junior struck out the next two batters to leave the Bearcats with two runners stranded and keep the Bearcats at bay. Western tacked on three more runs to end the game 8-3 and complete the sweep.
“We’re just playing really solid team ball right now,” Bishop said. “Home runs definitely help, but they don’t always win ball games. Solid hits win ball games, solid defense; and I feel like we’re doing both really well this year so far.”