Griffons relive a miracle

The story of the underdog has always been adored by the world and is constantly a major focus in Hollywood. Whether the underdog wins it all or falls short of the ultimate goal, the story becomes a legend. In 1982, Griffon softball wrote their own underdog story, eventually leading to a NAIA national championship victory. Western began their historic year with six straight losses, leaving the team to think that there was not much hope left in the season. With the team down after the losing streak, then head coach Rhesa Sumrell said something to the team that may have contributed to their turnaround season, according to former Griffon pitcher Wonda Berry. “I remember the coach telling us you have got to love to play and you all love to play the game, so you just need to play your game,” Berry said. “Then we got on a win and we just kept going and we were like gosh let’s see how far we can carry this through.” After the slow start the Griffons entered a hot streak and would carry their momentum into the NAIA District 16 tournament. They appeared unbeatable as they defeated Southwest Baptist 2-1 and William Woods twice by a score of 2-1 to win the District championship. Even though there was a slow start at the beginning of the season, Berry explains that everything started coming together during Districts and beyond. “It almost became a game of we can’t lose,” Berry said. “We just really started hitting and everything just came together, and it all came together at the right time too.” Winning their district qualified the Griffons to take their 24-14 record and go to Kearney, Nebraska for their first NAIA National Tournament. Unfortunately for Western, their time to shine on the national stage would be delayed by heavy rainfall. Although the rain hampered the tournament, Berry says that the Griffons had no trouble keeping their spirits up. “We had a pitcher in a dance class and she brought her tap shoes and would go into the bathroom on the tile and would tap all night long, we were like oh my gosh,” Berry said. “I remember Deena Murphy getting in a little helicopter for a kid and we kept putting quarters in and she was going up and down in the helicopter. It’s just little things like that where we really enjoyed what we were doing.” When the team wasn’t busy dancing or riding children’s toys, Berry explained that they would take grounders and practice on an asphalt road because the fields were too muddy to play on. Finally, the rain cleared and it was time for Western to continue down their road of success. The delays did not seem to have any effect on the Griffons during round one of the tournament. They dismantled Salem out of West Virginia by a score of 12-1. Western would not stop there as they would go on to win their next three games, defeating Wisconsin Parkside 1-0, St. Mary’s 4-3 and Oklahoma Baptist 2-0. The four game win streak was exactly what the Griffons needed to land them in the championship game of the tournament. With goose bumps and tears in her eyes Berry explained that only during Western’s four game win streak did it occur to the rest of the team that they have a shot at the national title. “We were just like oh my gosh we could win this,” Berry said. “When we just kept winning and we hadn’t lost yet I remember Brad, the coach at Kearney, saying I hope when Western loses they remember big girls don’t cry. I think when we saw that comment in the paper, we were like let’s win this thing, lets prove who we are and win this thing.” Rain once again delayed the final games of the tournament but would let up just long enough for the Griffons to face St. Francis for the title. Instead of having an epic down to the wire game, Western quickly dispatched St. Francis by a score of 5-0 clinching their historic national championship. Winning that game created a wave of shock throughout the whole team according to Berry. “We were just like we did it, we really just did this,” Berry said. “It’s almost like you’re sitting here and you’re watching it happen but it’s so unbelievable, it’s like we’re the champs, we’re number one.” That season not only brought a national championship to the team but it also lead to many members of the team being recognized for their great year including, Berry receiving Honorable Mention All-CSIC pitcher and Sumrell being named NAIA coach of the year. The 1982 NAIA National Champion Griffons prove that successful underdog stories are not only on the big screen. Their miraculous season will forever be a major part of Missouri Western history.

Griffons take MIAA title with weekend sweep

After busting out the brooms against the Washburn Ichabods, the Griffons claimed the MIAA Championship on Friday and capped the weekend off with a sweep of the Emporia State Hornets. Western was 9-1 in their last 10 games heading into the Washburn double header, but head coach Jen Trotter knew that they could not underestimate the Ichabods. “Washburn is always one of those teams that puts up a respectable offense,” Trotter said. “I was really worried about that match-up for us, but we took care of business.” The Griffons started off game one against the Ichabods with a bang. Left fielder Sydney Washington and right fielder Megan Korgie blasted back-to-back homers in the second inning to give Western a 3-0 lead. They scored again in the fourth inning off of Morgan Rathmann’s single and held Washburn scoreless until the bottom of the seventh inning when they knocked a one-run homerun. The Ichabods could not claw back, giving the Griffons a 4-1 victory. Western piled on the runs in game two. Third baseman Katie Klosterman and Washington drove in the first seven runs for the Griffons. Both players hit homeruns, Klosterman recorded a double and Washington added a single, giving the Griffons a 7-0 lead in the top of the fifth inning. Washburn fought back, driving in four runs in the bottom of the fifth to cut the lead to 7-4. The Griffons held on as first baseman Kailey Green hit a homerun and Rathmann singled, leading to an 11-4 win. Green and Washington launched homers number 14 and eight respectively while Klosterman and Korgie drove their homerun totals to 10 and two respectively. Pitcher Janie Smith improved her record to 19-8, striking out 11 batters in game one and fellow pitcher Shyanne Saladino struck out two while improving her record to 18-3 in game two. After the Washburn double header Western learned that they had won the conference championship, beating out rival Northwest. Trotter believes that one of their biggest strengths is how the Griffons play as a team. “What continues to be a great thing about this team is that they’re able to fight together,” Trotter said. Emporia was next on the list to cap off their MIAA championship season. In game one the Griffons piled on a lead throughout the game while holding the Hornets scoreless until the bottom of the seventh inning. Five players drove in RBIs the give Western a 7-0 lead before Emporia was able to tack on three of their own runs, adding one more in the win column by a score of 7-3. Game two was a defensive battle between the Griffons and Hornets. Emporia struck first to give them a 1-0 lead in the second, but Western added on one in the third and fourth to take a 2-1 lead. That’s how the game would stay, as both team were held scoreless through the last three innings, completing the sweep for the Griffons. Green took her team leading homerun total to 15 as Saladino recorded another win, giving her a 19-3 record. The Griffons finished the regular season at No. 1 in the conference by four games, which Trotter knows is a great accomplishment. “I knew that we were going to have a good season, but for us to get out of the MIAA, as tough as it is, by four games is something that I wouldn’t have anticipated, so that’s pretty neat,” Trotter said. Western will face No. 8 in the conference Southwest Baptist in game one of the MIAA tournament. The Griffons went 1-1 against the Bearcats during the season but Trotter thinks that might have been a good thing in the long run. “I’m grateful now for that split because I think that it will make sure our young ladies are really focused in because they know what can happen if we don’t play our best against that team,” Trotter said. The MIAA Tournament begins in Oklahoma City, OK on Thursday April 28 at 5 p.m.

Griffons, Bearcats even in season series

The No. 15 Griffons split the season series with rival Northwest Bearcats last week as they went 1-1 during the Thursday double-header. Head coach Jen Trotter knows that both teams have been equally matched this season. “Playing Northwest [shows] just how evenly matched our two teams are,” Trotter said. “We’ve faced each other four times this year, we’re 2-2 and the difference in our teams in the wins and losses is there are very few runs that separate us.” In game one, the Bearcats started with a bang, bringing in two runs off of a first-inning homer. Northwest scored again in the fourth inning off of another home run to take a 3-0 lead. Western struggled to get anything going offensively until the bottom of the seventh inning. They began their late game comeback, but fell short after scoring just two runs, falling to the rivals 3-2. Pitcher Janie Smith took the loss, dropping her record to 18-8, while giving up just three earned runs on four hits. Trotter knows that pulling off a comeback is not the ideal position to be in. “The late inning rally, you can’t rely on that and get yourself in such a hole,” Trotter said. “You run out of outs before you get to make up the difference in the game.” The beginning of game two was a defensive battle between the rivals but again the Bearcats put the first runs on the board in the fourth inning to take a 2-0 lead. The Griffons fired back in the fifth inning; scoring a run off of a single from left fielder Sydney Washington to shorted the lead to 2-1. Northwest added another run in the sixth inning to go back head by two with a 3-1 score. The late game rally worked for the Griffons this time around as they scored two runs off of homers from third baseman Katie Klostermann and Washington, taking the game into extra innings. In the bottom of the eighth designated player Taylor Hamilton knocked in a walk-off double to claim a 4-3 victory. Pitcher Shyanne Saladino recorded the win, improving her record to 17-3 while recording four strikeouts and giving up one earned run. Although the late inning comeback didn’t work in game one, Trotter was proud that her team didn’t give up on the game to come-from-behind victory. “Our team did a great job of rallying back,“ Trotter said. “We had put ourselves in a bit of a hole, we had four error, which is really uncharacteristic, but that says a lot about the job that Saladino did in the circle.” After going 1-1 in the Northwest double header, Western is 35-11 overall and 19-3 in conference, while still sitting at the head of the MIAA. Next up on the list for the Griffons are double headers against the Washburn Ichabods and the Emporia State Hornets. Although both teams are towards the bottom of the conference, Trotter knows that they can’t take the games lightly. “We have to approach this weekend knowing that we’re going to see their [Washburn/Emporia] best version,” Trotter said. “We have to take care of business with our team to try and go after a conference title. The Washburn double header begins Friday, April 22 at 2 p.m., with the second game at 4 p.m. The Emporia State games begin Saturday, April 23 at 2 p.m. and 4 p.m.

Griffons surge towards top of MIAA

The No. 18 Griffons captured sole possession of first place in the MIAA after they swept both Missouri Southern and Pittsburg State over the weekend. Western began their rise to first with two dominating wins over the Lions on Friday by a score of 10-2 and 10-1. In game one the Griffons sent the first run across the plate off of second baseman Paige Shifflett’s single in the first inning. The game was blown wide open for Western in the second inning when they piled on six runs, including a three RBI homer from first baseman Kailey Green. The momentum of that inning carried the Griffons to a 10-2 mercy-rule win. Western kept their foot on the gas in game two. They scored 10 runs, with help from a four RBI bomb from third baseman Katie Klostermann, before the Lions could score their first run. Once again the Griffons claimed a mercy rule victory with a 10-1 score. Although head coach Jen Trotter didn’t believe that Missouri Southern brought their A-game, she’s happy that her team got the sweep. “They’re a better team than what they played like on Friday, but I wasn’t going to be upset about that,” Trotter said. “I felt like that was really important to set up Saturday, with our offense feeling confident on Friday and with us being able to limit some innings.” The first game of the Pittsburg State double header was a completely different battle from the Missouri Southern series. In game one neither team scored until the tenth inning when Shifflett hit a walk off single to take an extra inning 1-0 win. Pitcher Janie Smith held the Gorillas to only two hits in ten innings with six strikeouts while posting a shutout. While the Griffons were able to come away with the win they struggled against opposing pitcher Emmie Robertson who struck out 18 Western batters. The low scoring affair is a rarity that used to be the norm in softball according to Trotter. “That is fast pitch softball and there’s not very many games anymore where you’re playing 10 innings without a score,” Trotter said. “It’s just been a lot more offensively driven lately.” The Griffons got back to their high scoring offense in game two. Although they didn’t score in the first inning, the defense did hold the Gorillas in the first and second innings. Western struck first in the bottom of the second inning, knocking three singles, which produced three runs. They added on four more runs in the sixth inning while Pittsburg State managed to score just once in the second, putting another one in the win column for Western with a 7-1 score. Trotter had high praise for the two senior pitchers who fought hard on senior day. “I couldn’t be more proud of Janie Smith. On senior day you always worry about the emotions involved,” Trotter said. “Smith and Shyanne Saladino just absolutely owned it.” The Griffons are on an eight game win streak and are now No. 1 in the MIAA with a conference record of 19-3 and an overall record of 34-10. Western’s next test will be against the rival Northwest Bearcats who are currently second in the MIAA and are on a nine game win streak. The double-header begins Thursday, April 14 at 4 p.m. at the Griffon Softball Field.

Griffons show power on road

The Griffons began their three-school six game road trip last Friday with a double header against the Lindenwood Lions, followed by a double header against the Lincoln Blue Tigers and ended Tuesday with a double header against the rival Northwest Bearcats. Head coach Jen Trotter felt confident about her team’s position going into the road streak. “We felt pretty good about where we were and how we were swinging the bats and to get back into conference play, we were really looking forward to this weekend,” Trotter said. Although the team was confident going into the trip they came out flat in the first game against Lindenwood. Western took a 4-0 lead going into the bottom of the third inning but Lindenwood clawed back while holding off the Griffons. They scored six runs and blanked Western in fourth through seventh inning to win 6-4. The Griffons piled up 10 hits including a homerun by first baseman Kailey Green, but still fell short. Trotter believes that struggling fundamentally led to the loss. “We just did not have our best effort, we didn’t take care of the ball in the circle very well,” Trotter said. “We just didn’t look very sharp.” Western bounced back in game two, scoring six runs in the first inning, starting with a two run homer from second baseman Paige Shifflett. That first inning would set the pace for an 11-5 victory for the Griffons. Shifflett added a double to accompany her homerun and drove in two RBIs in the game. Pitcher Shyanne Saladino got the win, pushing her record to 12-3. Next Western set their sights on the Lincoln Blue Tigers where the Griffons had no trouble dominating. Game one of the double header only lasted five innings thanks to a 10-0 lead by Western. Pitcher Janie Smith sported a no hitter until the last inning when a grounder towards Green got through and counted for the Blue Tigers only hit. Trotter felt that the missed no hitter was the only down side to their win. “That was disappointing because she was that close to throwing a no hitter,” Trotter said. “I think Kailey Green probably owes her lunch or something.” Smith recorded the game one win and went on to pitch the majority of game two. The Griffons kept their foot on the gas in the second game, once again shutting out the Blue Tigers with a score of 8-0. The road trip was rounded up against the Bearcats of Northwest and in game one Western continued their shutout streak. Both teams were held scoreless until the fifth inning when the Griffons tacked on three runs courtesy of center fielder Morgan Rathmann’s single and short stop Shelbie Atwell’s double. They scored their last run in the sixth inning and went on to take a 4-0 victory over the Bearcats. Northwest came out on fire in the final game by quickly taking a 6-0 lead in the first inning. Neither team scored again until the fourth when designated player Taylor Hamilton crushed a solo homer to make the score 6-1. Later, going into the seventh inning the Griffons were down 9-4, but Western homered three times in a row to tie the game up 9-9, forcing extra innings. Unfortunately in the eighth inning the Bearcats hit a walk-off single to steal a 10-9 win. Green and third baseman Katie Klosterman homered once while Hamilton went yard twice in the game. Coming out of the road stretch Western is now 26-10 overall and 11-3 in the conference, good enough for second place in the MIAA behind Pittsburg State. The Griffons return home Saturday April, 2 for a double header against the Fort Hays State Tigers.