Griffons ready to sweep weekend double-headers

By Mika Cummins

April 9, 2014

Missouri Western will be on the road this weekend to play two double-headers against Lincoln and Lindenwood. Riding on a six-game winning streak going into Tuesday's non-conference double-header against rival Northwest, the Griffons are keeping their expectations high going into the weekend. "Both teams are teams that we have to make sure we're playing our best [against], because, both of them have played some games really tight. Their records may not be great, but they're playing teams tight, so we have to make sure we're ready to go," head softball coach Jen Bagley said. The Griffons will first head to St. Charles, Mo, for their two games against the Lions of Lindenwood. The Lions, who sit at 14-19 overall and 8-10 in MIAA play, have lost five of their last eight games. Courtney Opich is a threat from the plate for Lindenwood. She currently leads the team in several categories, including a batting average at .416 and hits, with 32 hits and four home runs. From the field, the Griffons need to be wary of Brittany Rozier. Rozier currently has 153 putouts, which leads the Lions. The following day, Western will travel to Jefferson City, Mo, for the double-header against Lincoln. The Blue Tigers sit at 3-28 overall and 0-18 in MIAA play. They're currently suffering from an eight-game losing streak. While their record doesn't show it, Lincoln is stacked with hard-hitters. Sam Kircher is the leader in batting average for the Blue Tigers, sitting at .338. She also leads her team with seven home runs and 16 RBIs. Erin Sommerer is the fielding threat for Lincoln, with 180 putouts and a fielding average of .979. "We'd like to come back 4-0. We'd like to make sure we take care of business like we're supposed to. I think we would want to make sure our offense is still capable of scoring five plus runs. If we can make that our goal, we'll win," Bagley said. The Griffons are 26-14 so far this season, and 11-7 in MIAA play. They started the season slow, but have really found their rhythm in recent weeks. "I think we've had a lot of ups and downs. We're maybe struggling a little bit more than what we had anticipated at the beginning of the year. And yet, I think that now we're starting to play some of our best softball, which may play into a greater plan that I was unaware of, which is just making sure that we're playing our best at the end," Bagley said. Infielder Tiffany Gillaspy is hitting a powerful .381 batting average. She leads the team in hits at 48, home runs at nine and RBIs at 32. Catcher Kat Steponovich is leading the Griffons with 265 putouts so far this season. But a big story this season for the Griffons has been pitcher Jackie Bishop. "Our team has improved on scoring runs since the beginning of the season. When we first started out, we were having a little trouble pushing runs across the plate, but, as the season goes on, we are doing a better job with run support," Bishop said. Bishop is currently at a .94 ERA. At a 17-9 record, Bishop has allowed 94 hits across 164.2 innings. She has struck out 193 batters. Bishop currently has four no-hitters, three of which came this season. She pitched her first career perfect game in Western's 10-0 victory over St. Cloud State. "Our team needs to just play to our best ability and we can compete with any team, so if we just do small things right and play the way we are capable of we should be fine this weekend," Bishop said. The Griffons will finish their last regular season road trip this weekend against Lindenwood and Lincoln. First pitch of the weekend is set for 1:00 p.m. on Friday, April 11.