Western pitching helped the Griffons go 3-1 over their weekend homestand, including a split against Northwest yesterday, extending their conference record to 7-3.
Western opened the weekend by taking on Northeastern State University in a doubleheader on Thursday. Both of the games were extremely close, with Western earning two hard-fought victories.
In game one, sophomore Kenzie Hilzer had another strong showing in the circle, throwing all 10 innings of two-run ball. Junior outfielder Morgan Frost went 3-5 at the plate with an RBI. It was senior first baseman Shelbie Atwell, however, that played hero in this one. Atwell drove in the winning run on a two-out single in the bottom of the 10th inning to give Western the victory, 3-2.
Game two followed a similar blueprint, Atwell had another game-winner in the bottom of the 10th inning, pushing Western to a 7-6 win. Atwell was able to put the ball in play, which allowed junior Tamara Hicks to beat the throw home and slide into a victory for the home team. Kaili Hinds pitched the entire game going 10 innings letting up two runs, only one earned, and striking out four.
When asked about her strong outing, Hinds noted the mental side of the game.
“Confidence was definitely a huge part to me,” Hinds said. “Just believing that I can do it because I know I can. I was in my head too much, and I just have to remind myself not to think about the pitch too much and just spin it to my spot. Our mental game as a team had made leaps of improvement.”
Friday saw Western playing host to the Bronchos of the University of Central Oklahoma, a team that has been a softball powerhouse – along with Western – in the MIAA as of late. Game one was a back-and-forth fight throughout, with both teams trading blows and answering one another whenever one would strike. It was the Bronchos, however, that would deliver the knockout blow, pushing across the winning run in the top of the 7th inning and then shutting down Western’s offense to close out the first game by the score of 3-2.
Western was able to bounce right back, as they have done throughout their conference play thus far, and took care of the Bronchos 5-4 in game two. No extra-inning heroics were needed in this one, as another strong outing from Hinds, backed up by timely hitting on offense, was enough for Western to take the game and earn an impressive MIAA victory.
“As it gets later in the season, we are more familiar with the pitching that we will see and that allows us to prepare in practice for what we will see on game day,” Atwell said. “Between that and the confidence that we have been building, it all just came together this weekend and allowed us to get some huge wins. We are peaking at the right time and I couldn’t be more excited.”
Head Coach Jen Bagley Trotter echoed a similar sentiment when asked about the team’s strong play in conference.
“This year it has taken us a while to realize our identity and really play together,” Bagley said. “Now, though, we have started to get on a roll and confidence is very powerful.”
Western traveled to Maryville yesterday and split the two game set, winning the first game 8-0 and losing the second game 1-0.
Hilzer pitched five innings tallying five hits and five strikeouts as her ERA has shot down these past two weeks. In the second game Hinds pitched six innings only allowing one run, but that one run was enough to give Northwest the win.
Western will travel to Warrensburg, Missouri, to take on Central Missouri on Friday for a doubleheader and Southwest Baptist on Saturday.