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Defense assists Western in two wins

Although half of the UAM 8-State Classic was cancelled, the Griffons found success in winning two of their three games.

Head coach Jen Trotter believes the season will change once the team plays at a high level every game.

“This last weekend, we were able to make some big plays and kind of play with some more confidence, but now we have to make sure that we are doing that on a consistent basis,” Trotter said. “When we get that consistency on defense, a lot of things will begin to change for us.”

Game one against the East Central University Tigers featured tough defense and flashes of power for Western.

In the second inning, first basemen Kailey Green cracked a solo homer to right center field to give Western a 1-0 lead. The next inning second baseman Paige Shifflett knocked her own solo homerun to right field to increase the lead to 2-0. The initial run would be enough to win, the second was a little insurance and pitcher Janie Smith made sure that East Central would not have a chance to gain ground, with a little help from center fielder Morgan Rathmann who threw out a runner at the plate.

Smith pitched seven innings with six strikeouts and gave up only four base hits while recording the shutout.

Trotter was happy with the way her defense performed in the game.

“We got a great performance from Janie Smith in the circle; she really handled the game really well and kept our offense in a situation where we were able to score some runs,” Trotter said. “We also had some pretty big defensive plays by Morgan Rathmann, who was able to have a couple of catchable throw runners out at the plate kind of plays that made that a fun game to play.”

In the second game, the Griffons were on the wrong side of Arkansas Tech’s power as they hit a solo homer in second inning to take a 1-0 lead. Later in the fifth inning, Shifflett singled allowing left fielder Sydney Washington to score and designated hitter Taylor Hamilton sacrificed, driving in Rathmann to take a 2-1 lead. The Golden Suns then exploded for a five-run sixth inning off of a few singles and an error to take a 6-2 lead. Western would not gain ground and Arkansas Tech tacked on two more in the seventh to defeat the Griffons 8-2.

It was all Western through the majority of game three against the Missouri S&T Lady Miners.

The Griffons were handed an easy run in the first off of a walk that scored Rathmann. Then in the fourth inning, they piled on six more runs from a solo homer by right fielder Megan Korgie, a pair of doubles and an error. Missouri S&T tried to fight back, scoring three runs in the bottom of the fourth, but Western would add two more to their lead in the fifth and went on to win 9-3.

The Griffons are now 4-3 on the season and, after two tournaments, Trotter thinks that their strong junior class is beginning to show more leadership.

“I’m starting to see more of a willingness to step up and say things, they now feel as though it is ok to have a voice,” Trotter said. “It’s nice to have that strong leadership because, not only do we have three seniors, but those juniors have had a lot of innings too.”

Western has another lengthy tournament in St. Cloud, Minnesota with the Kelly LAAS Invite. They begin the tournament on Friday, Feb. 19 at 5 p.m. against Minnesota State University-Mankato.

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