Western softball hits road for regional test this weekend

By Thomas Huitt-Johnson

April 17, 2012

Missouri Western finished up conference play this past weekend with a sweep against Lincoln. The Griffons sit at 36-7 overall, and finish 18-2 in the MIAA, good for second place. This gives the Griffons the No. 2 seed in the MIAA tournament which starts Thursday, April 26 and lasts three days long. As of now, the Griffons will see Missouri Southern (4-8) or Central Missouri (6-10) in the first round, and then meet either Fort Hays State (10-6) or Pittsburg State (8-6) in the semifinals. But that might not be the case, because nine out of the 11 teams in the conference still have games to be played. The only two that have finished up play -- Missouri Western and Emporia State -- are the top two seeds. The Hornets finished league play at 20-0, the first time a team ran the table in the conference. No. 1 seed Emporia gave the Griffons their only two losses in the conference, 5-2 and 5-4 back in March. The two are heavy favorites  to meet back up for the conference title on Saturday, April 28. But Western can take a break from the conference and focus on a bigger goal now -- the regionals. Before the MIAA tournament starts, Western looks to take a leap in the regional rankings this weekends as it heads to Oklahoma to play Northeastern State and Central Oklahoma. Western, currently the No. 5 seed, can make a huge move in the rankings if it defeats Central Oklahoma, who is the No. 2. The two schools meet Sunday at noon. The Bronchos have two girls that can blast homers any time they step to the plate in Nathalie Timmermans, who has 19 homers this season, and Kacie Edwards has 14. Western starter Jackie Bishop is No. 5 in the nation with a .77 ERA, so the battle between one of the nation's best aces and hitters will meet this weekend. In the South Central Region, Angelo State (34-7), who swept the Bronchos (33-3) in the first two games of the season, are No. 1 and Emporia is No. 3. Abilene Christian (25-10) holds a slim lead over Western for the No. 4 spot. If the Griffons pull out the split or the sweep over Central Oklahoma and then win the MIAA tournament the following week, they may snatch a top-two seed in the region. The top two teams host the regionals at their home, and the highest seed remaining after the first weekend hosts the Super Regional the following week. Western's highest push toward a national championship was in 2009, when the Griffons made it to the finals of the Super Regional, but fell short to Southeastern Oklahoma State.