The softball team has won 17 of the last 18 games going into a Friday doubleheader in Hays, Kansas, against a 17-14 Fort Hays State team.
The Tigers have been very up-and-down of late, earning a split with a 22-11 Central Oklahoma squad last week, but also splitting with Northeastern State, whose record is below 14-18 this season.
Last season the Griffons swept the Tigers, going 2-0 against their conference foes.
“The pressure they feel is making sure they are playing as best they can against conference opponents,” Griffon coach Jen Bagley-Trotter said. “We’re in that time of year where we’re facing all conference schools and I know that they want to do well in the conference and we’re watching the scores of the conference and seeing all the craziness that’s happening. We realize through learning through others’ mistakes that we need to focus on us and making sure that we’re controlling us every time we go out and if we are doing that, we’ve put ourselves in a good situation to win the game.”
During the 2014 season former MWSU standout Jackie Bishop picked up both wins while pitching 13 1/3 innings and only allowing two runs to Fort Hays State batters.
Current Griffon ace Janie Smith recorded five outs in the doubleheader and only allowed one hit while striking out three Tigers.
Smith will likely climb the hill in at least one of the contests this year. The junior carries a 12-5 record and a 3.14 earned run average on the year.
Complementing Smith and getting the other start is Shyanne Saladino. She sports a 13-4 record this season with a 3.53 ERA.
Paxton Duran and Kelsey Kimminau anchor a stellar pitching staff for Fort Hays State.
Duran has a 9-6 record and has a 2.55 ERA, while her sidekick in the rotation Kimminau is 7-7 with a 2.95 ERA.
The Tigers’ pair of pitchers have been snake bitten by the defense behind them so far this season, whereas the Griffon defense has been much more solid.
Each staff has surrendered only 81 earned runs all season but the Tigers’ defense has allowed 39 unearned runs.
Western has given up less than half that number. The Griffon defense has only given up 18 unearned runs this year.
“It’s important to continue to drill the small things so we continue to do little things right,” Bagley-Trotter said.
Defense should play a huge factor in these pivotal conference showdowns on Friday afternoon as the Griffons look to expand their winning streak to 20 games.
Griffon to Watch:
Tiffany Gillaspy is the leader of the Western attack and has been leading the Griffon offense during this win streak.
For the season, Gillaspy has been very impressive with a .431 batting average, nearly 60 points higher than the next Griffon.
The second baseman also has a team-high in home runs (12), doubles (8), runs scored (38), and runs-batted-in (34).
In her last 20 games, the Griffon standout has only failed to collect a hit in 2 games. She also has two multiple-homerun games during that stretch.
The senior has managed to do all of this while playing a new position this season.
The recent hot streak offensively for Gillaspy may also be attributed to her stellar defensive play of late in the field as she settles into her new position. Gillaspy has only committed 3 errors in her last 20 contests.
Tiger to Watch:
Tori Beltz occupies the third spot in the Fort Hays State batting order.
The junior from Rose Hill, Kansas, sports a .320 batting average, which is second among the Tiger regulars.
The first baseman leads the club with six home runs and 26 RBI this year. She also has nine doubles.
The Tigers don’t hit for very much power as a team with only 17 bombs on the year, but Beltz is their primary threat for the long ball.
The Tiger star leads the team with a .598 slugging percentage as well.