The Griffons seem invincible during the month of March as they push their win streak to 12 games after going 6-0 during the Apple Market Classic.
During the Western hosted tournament, the team outscored opponents 36-5 on their way to six straight tournament wins, which improved their overall record to 21-9.
Head coach Jen Bagley-Trotter attributes the recent success to the team for continuously playing well in all facets of the game.
“It was nice to see us put all three parts of the game together,” Bagley-Trotter said. “We’ve had signs of good defense and we’ve had signs of good hitting, but we’re finally in a stretch where we’ve put it all together and we’re seeing wins because of it.”
Western opened the first day of the tournament against the Mankato Mavericks, who the Griffons had previously lost to by a score of 1-2. The Griffons took an early 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first inning off of an RBI double from second baseman Tiffany Gillaspy. Both teams would be held scoreless in the second and third innings, but in the fourth inning third baseman Katie Klosterman cracked a solo home run to move Western’s lead to 2-0. The Mavericks managed to tie the game by scoring two runs off of a Griffon error in the top of the fifth inning, but Western quickly regained the lead off of a sacrifice fly RBI from Gillaspy in the bottom of the inning. Designated hitter Paige Shifflett drove in one more run for the Griffons with her own solo homer in the sixth inning which led to a 4-2 victory over Mankato.
In game two of the tournament, against the Northern State Wolves, Western once again jumped to an early 1-0 lead when center fielder Morgan Rathmann doubled, stole third and made it home off of an error. Two more runs were added to the Griffons lead from Gillaspy’s single in the fifth inning. Western shutout the Wolves through the whole game, giving the Griffons a 3-0 win.
The Griffons put on an offensive showcase again in game three against the Concordia-St. Paul Golden Bears starting with a solo home run from Gillaspy and an RBI single from Shifflett for a 2-0 lead in the first inning. Western scored three more times from a successful steal home in the third inning and a Rathmann RBI single as well as another Gillaspy homerun in the fourth inning. The Golden Bears finally scored their first run in the top of the sixth inning to bring the score to 6-1. During the bottom of the sixth inning, the Griffons scored four more runs including two runs off of a homer from right fielder Brooke Schaben to hand Western a 10-1 win.
Through the first half of the tournament, the Griffons had a combined batting average of .338 while accumulating 26 hits and outscoring opponents 17-3.
The team’s confidence has everything to do with a strong offensive performance according to Gillaspy.
“I think being confident and being smart at the plate [helps],” Gillaspy said. “We’ve played this game for a long time and after a while there’s no getting better, it’s just showing what we [the team] can do I think.”
For game four Western was matched against their nemesis the No. 24 Augustana Vikings. The Griffons again struck first with Gillaspy scoring on a wild pitch in the first inning to take a 1-0 lead. They scored again in the second inning off of a solo home run from first baseman Kailey Green, pushing the score to 2-0. Green drove in two more runs to finish the game, batting a perfect 3-3 from the plate, which increased the score to 4-0. The Vikings scored their lone run in the sixth inning but could not gain any more ground as the Griffons beat their rivals 4-1.
Western capitalized on another chance for revenge as they played the Wayne State Wildcats, who had beaten the Griffons earlier in the season 2-3. The Griffons gained a 4-0 lead after a two RBI double from Green in the first inning and RBI singles from Gillaspy and left fielder Sydney Washington in the second inning. The Wildcats scored their only run in the top of the third inning to bring the score to 4-1. Western was able to shut out Wayne State the rest of the game. The Griffons drove in three more runs, from Klosterman’s solo homer in the bottom of the third and a two RBI double from Gillaspy in the fifth inning, as they went on to defeat the Wildcats 7-1.
Another ranked opponent stood in the Griffons way, for the sixth and final game of the tournament, as they faced the No. 14 Winona State Warriors. Western scored first for the sixth game in a row off of Shifflett’s RBI single in the third inning to give them a 1-0 lead. The Griffons scored four runs in the fifth inning to take a 5-0 lead, as Shifflett knocked another RBI single, Washington scored off of a fielder’s choice and both Green and Klosterman scored on passed balls. They piled on three more runs in the sixth inning as Shifflett again hit an RBI single, Klosterman recorded an RBI double and shortstop Shelbie Atwell had an RBI fly out. The Warriors were held scoreless the entire game, giving the Griffons an 8-0 shutout win.
Through the entire tournament Western accumulated 56 hits, had an overall batting average of .346 and outscored their opponents 36-5.
With the victory over Winona State, Western improved their win streak to 12 games marking the third time in the last three years that the Griffons have had a 12 game win streak.
Klosterman believes that the team’s efficient play in multiple areas of the game is what has led to the win streak.
“I think our hitting, pitching and defense have all gone together so it’s all meshing better than it was at the beginning of the season,” Klosterman said. “If that keeps happening then I think no team will be able to beat us.”
The Griffons are constantly working hard to clean up their play as much as possible so they can continue playing at such a high level, explains Gillaspy.
“We’ve worked on little things like playing the slow balls hard and going balls out for plays even if we can’t get to them and we’ve worked on stopping the extra base,” Gillaspy said.
Although the team has been playing great, they have to remain consistent, according to Bagley-Trotter.
“I think what we’re doing right now is good, but we have to make sure it’s not a spurt,” Bagley-Trotter said. “So when you talk about room for improvement, you’re talking about us putting things together in a consistent manor and making sure we continue to do the small things rights.”
Western will have the chance to extend their win streak as they continue their home stretch with a double header against the Lindenwood University Lions on Friday, March 27.