Western softball continued to struggle this past week, dropping six straight games over the weekend.
The games were held in St. Cloud, Minnesota, as part of the Kelly Laas Invite.
Western opened the weekend on Thursday with a twinbill against top-ranked Minnesota State University. In a rematch of their heartbreaking series last weekend, Western dropped another heartbreaker to the Mavericks, losing by the score of 8-7 in 10 innings. Western gave Minnesota State all they could handle, jumping out to an early 3-1 lead, but Minnesota State stormed back to even the game up, eventually downing Western in the tenth on a walkoff single.
The second game was all Minnesota State, as the defending national champions seemingly had their way with Western, resulting in a convincing 15-5 victory.
One of the standouts of the day was senior first baseman Shelbie Atwell, who batted 6-8 on the day, adding an RBI and two runs scored.
“Although I individually had a good weekend on paper, that doesn’t matter because this is a team sport,” Atwell said. “My thought process this weekend was the same as my teammates – do what I could, as best as I could, to try and help my team to a win.”
Friday saw Western experience the rare tripleheader, taking on three different opponents in one day.
Western took on St. Cloud State University first on Friday morning. Western took a 5-1 lead into the bottom of the last inning, only to surrender five straight runs to lose 6-5.
That negative momentum carried over into the second game, as Western was shut out by Augustana University 9-0 in just five innings. Not only was Western held without a run, but they were held without even a hit in the game.
Western then, in their third game of the day, took on the University of Sioux Falls to close out the long weekend. Western put up much more of a fight in their final game of the weekend, led by senior pitcher Barb Billingsley making her first start of the season after an illness forced her to miss time. Billingsley held Sioux Falls to just one run on one hit through her four innings of work, only to have Sioux Falls score three runs in the bottom of the sixth to put the game away with a final score of 4-2.
Despite the negative outcome, the return of Billingsley is a major piece added to the puzzle that Western has been so far this year.
“Getting sick was just another set back, but it only made me more hungry to get back to pitching at the level at which I know I’m capable of,” Billingsley said. “I’ve been working my butt off and I’m going to continue to until we meet our team goals.”
As Western attempts to right the ship and get back to the winning ways as they start conference play, coach Jen Bagley Trotter knows what all changes heading into conference play. She also knows what needs to stay the same.
“I don’t think our preparation changes so much as our focus on our preparation does. We know what we have exposed early, and what we need to fix as we continue on into a competitive conference season,” Trotter said.
Western opens conference play on Friday as they travel to St. Charles, Missouri, to take on Lindenwood University. First pitch on Friday is set for 2:00 p.m.