On March 12, Missouri Western was sitting at 12-11 on the season and was 1-3 in conference play. They had no real identity and had still yet to play a home game.
Since then, Missouri Western has gone 18-3, improving their record to 30-14. They are second in the MIAA standings and sit only behind No. 2 ranked Central Oklahoma. During this time, the Griffons have seen coach Jen Bagley-Trotter become the winningest head coach in MIAA softball history and led them to their current 12-game winning streak.
So what’s changed? How did a team hovering around 500 burst onto the scene?
For starters, they finally got to play in their own ballpark. Thanks to the terrible winter here in Missouri, the softball team was forced to cancel and reschedule a lot of their early games. This meant going on the road more and long bus rides which takes a toll on the team. There’s no greater feeling than sleeping in your own bed and playing in front of your fans. Missouri Western is 10-3 at home and look really comfortable, especially at the plate. In their 10 home wins, the Griffons are averaging 7.1 runs a game. Oh, and their last four games of the regular season are at home.
Speaking of offense, the bats have been on fire. Missouri Western is averaging 6.2 runs per game during this 21-game stretch and getting production throughout the lineup. Seniors Morgan Frost and Gabbi Carter continue to produce as expected. What might not have been expected is how well some of the underclassman have been hitting. Sophomore Emma Hoffart has really come into her own in her second season. Hoffart is hitting .345 and leads the Griffons in home runs (7) and RBIs (35).
Two freshman have worked their way into the starting lineup as well. Sydney Hawkins and Brea Blanton have been tearing the cover off the ball. Blanton’s .411 average is good for fifth in the MIAA while her .480 OBP is good for fourth. She has been the perfect table setter at the top of the lineup. Meanwhile, Hawkins has been the best hitter in conference play this year. Against MIAA opponents, Hawkins is hitting a league best .480(!) and is the current owner of a 15-game hitting streak. Getting this production out of any player is great, but when you have three underclassman playing at this level, it is really going to propel your team.
As much fun as offense is, it’s hard to have sustained success without good pitching. Surprise, surprise, Missouri Western has had that too. Missouri Western has allowed only 3.3 runs per game during this streak, making it very difficult for opposing teams to score. Transfer Lexi Kennard had a tough go at the beginning of the season, and at one point had an era of 6.91. Then she threw a complete game shutout against No. 22 ranked Winona and made coach Trotter the all-time wins leader. Kennard has an era of 3.2 since then and has given the Griffons another arm to turn to.
Sophomore Kaili Hinds has emerged as an ace in her second season. Hinds is 13-3 on the season with an era of 2.91. Her most impressive feat came at Missouri Southern where she threw an 11 inning shutout in a 1-0 victory. Knowing you have a chance to win every other game keeps losing streaks short and sustains winning.
Maybe it’s time to stop calling this team hot. Coach Trotter has put together a roster full of talent of all ages and backgrounds. During a double header they can go toe-to-toe with your ace in a 2-1 game, followed by keeping pace in a 9-8 shoot-out. They’ve been playing this way for half the season. Missouri Western softball is good. They’ve found their identity, and their identity is winning.