It was a very tough weekend at the Griffon Spring Sports Complex, with Western softball dropping five-of-six games on their home field.
The busy weekend started on Thursday, with Western playing host to the University of Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs for a doubleheader. In the first game, Western was able to score an efficient 12 runs on 12 hits but ultimately fell to Duluth by a score of 22-12. Western managed to jump out to an early 7-0 lead after two innings, but the Duluth bats could not be silenced, roaring back to score in every inning the rest of the game. Game two was more of the same, as Duluth defeated Western convincingly by the score of 14-5.
On Saturday, the road did not get any easier, as Western played host to the top-ranked Minnesota State University Mavericks for another doubleheader. In game one, Minnesota was able to shut out Western and cruise to a 9-0 victory. Western continued to struggle in game two, falling by the score of 11-7. After falling behind 8-0 early in the contest, Western answered back with a five-run fourth inning to make it a ball game, only to surrender another three runs in the fifth inning that all but put a halt to any comeback attempt. Despite the loss, there were still some positive things for Western to take away for head coach Jen Bagley Trotter and her squad.
“The results are not what we wanted,” Trotter said. “However, our team with the new faces is going to take some bumps early in order to figure out who they are meant to be. We don’t have to be perfect in February. We have to be perfect at getting better together in February. Playing the #1 ranked team in the country allows us to see the matchup and dig in further to be in the mix.”
Western got a second chance against Minnesota-Duluth on Sunday, with Western hosting the Bulldogs for another doubleheader. This time around, however, the story was different, with Western never trailing in a game they went on to win 6-4. Sophomore pitcher Kenzie Hilzer got the win on the mound for Western, going the distance for another complete game victory, her second of the season. Game two saw the Western bats silenced, managing only five hits, as Duluth pulled out a 5-1 victory.
One of the bright spots over the weekend was the offensive play of junior outfielder Shelby Uhl. Uhl batted .5oo this weekend, bringing her season average to a blistering .545, while also driving in five runs. In her three seasons at Western, Uhl has steadily improved each season to emerge as one of the major contributors for Western. Uhl attributes her sustained impact play to the coaching staff here at Western.
“ I attribute my ability to improve with each season to our hitting coach, coach Gorsage,” Uhl said. “Over the past two years, she has worked with me for hours on my mental and physical game, how to be confident in the box and also making sure my mechanics are in check. She never hesitates to come in and provide extra, which is something I am extremely thankful for.”
Western travels to St. Cloud, Minnesota, this week to play in the Kelly Laas Invite. They open with a rematch against top-ranked Minnesota State on Thursday at 5 p.m.