Western Softball pitches for the top
The determination of Missouri Western softball is growing stronger, and, with eight wins in a row and a winning conference record, they are eager to play against Northeastern State. The Griffons are ahead of NSU by one game in MIAA standings. Western is currently 11-7 and Northeastern is 10-8 in conference play. Head coach Jen Bagley is focused on this game, as well as the rest of the season. “NSU is a very good program that has played teams very tough this season," Bagley said. " Last year we had really good, competitive games with them and are expecting the same from this matchup.” Last season, the Griffons met the Riverhawks twice. The first time was a double-header, which the Griffons won 9-0 and 3-1. The second time the teams met, Western pulled away with a 7-4 victory. Jackie Bishop, pitcher for the Griffons, has played against NSU several times and has the experience. “NSU is a team that you can't take lightly, because they have been playing good softball this year,” Bishop said. “They have played us tough before and I expect it to be another tough game as well.” Tiffany Gillaspy, an infielder for the Griffons, also knows the Riverhawks are a competitive bunch. “NSU is always a good team,” Gillaspy said. They are scrappy and can hit the ball. I think that, if Jackie and Janie take care of the ball in the circle and we score runs behind them, we will do just fine.” This season started out slow for the Griffons with a lot of cancelations, but the team is prepared for all their games. “We have had a roller coaster of a season so far,” Bagley said. "We lost some games that we shouldn't have and put ourselves in a bit of a hole. Now, we are starting to put things together and are playing some of our best softball.” For the MIAA tournament, Central Oklahoma is the only team that has clinched a spot. As of now, there are four games left for the Griffons, and only eight teams can make the MIAA tournament. “Right now we are sitting third in the conference,” Gillaspy said. "So there is a high chance we will go. The MIAA is a very tough conference, but, if we keep playing good defense and hitting the ball well, we will do good.” Western is tied in conference play with Central Missouri, but the Griffons have a better overall record, putting them ahead. Second place in standings sits Emporia State, with a conference record of 13-1. “The MIAA tournament will be tough, but I believe that we have just as good of a chance to win it as any other team in the tournament,” Bishop said. “Once we start the tournament, records don't matter anymore and everyone will have a 0-0 record. Each game is important, and we will have to play our best softball, but we will be up for the challenge.” With a lot of teams in the running, anything can happen. Coach Bagley and the team remain unphased. “Whether it is the tournament or a doubleheader, our expectations are the same. We need to focus on doing the small things right, and play with the passion to win,” Bagley said. The Griffons play NSU in a double-header on Friday, April 25, at noon and 2 p.m. at home.