This young season has thus far been a season of growing pains for Missouri Western softball, as Western has stumbled out of the gate to a record of 3-12, including a current six-game losing streak.
Western now has some time to lick their wounds before opening up conference play against Lindenwood.
The Griffons have started the season off playing some very stiff competition, much stiffer even than some of the other teams in the MIAA have put on their early season schedules. This has put Western to the test right out of the gate. Playing strong opponents early on in the season, instead of “cupcake” teams to ease the way into conference play, may result in a less-than-stellar record to open the season, but the immediate experience of playing in tight and meaningful games can be extremely valuable in the long run.
And the gauntlet that is the MIAA season is a long run. Western knows how tough it is to play, and especially to win, in the MIAA as a conference, but they wouldn’t have it any other way.
“The MIAA is one of the toughest conferences in all of DII softball,” senior pitcher Barb Billingsley said. “We aren’t able to let up or take a game off, and we love the competition.”
In recent years, the conference has been as loaded as ever, experiencing the benefits of parity between teams. Since Emporia State’s impressive of eight straight MIAA titles came to an end, spanning from 2004-2012, there has not been a repeat champion among the conference.
“Recently in the MIAA, there has been a decrease in dominant pitching, and an increase in dominant offense,” head coach Jen Bagley Trotter said. “The teams that have really dominated in this league for the last couple of years have been the ones that have been able to put some pitchers in the circle. The thing about this conference is that even one wrong pitch can lose you a game, because everybody brings a high-powered lineup.”
That same sentiment is echoed by the players as well.
“I am a firm believer that the MIAA is the strongest conference out there,” sophomore pitcher Kenzie Hilzer said. “We have some of the toughest competitors and a lot of success within the teams when it comes to moving on in postseason play. Our style of play in the MIAA is very diverse amongst teams because each team has a different approach and style and path to their success.”
Western will look to start their path to success as they open conference play as they take on Lindenwood University in a doubleheader on Friday. First pitch is scheduled for 2 p.m.