Crossover tournament prepares Griffons for conference play

The Griffons travel to St. Cloud, Minnesota, for the NSIC/MIAA Crossover on Thursday to improve their 5-4 record before beginning conference play. Previously, Western played in the 8-State Classic where they won two games against Truman State and Quincy University and lost two games to Minnesota Duluth and Southern Arkansas. On Thursday, the Griffons kick off the Crossover with a morning game against the Concordia University Golden Bears and a night game against the Minnesota State Mavericks. Western goes on to play the Augustana College Vikings during day two of the tournament. This will be the first time the Griffons have faced the Vikings since their one-run loss to Augustana in the NCAA Regional Tournament, and the players, including second basemen Tiffany Gillaspy, are ready for a little pay back. “The game is very important, I’m out for blood and I know the girls that played last year are out for blood,” Gillaspy said. “We’ve told the freshman and they know how that [game] ended last year in the regional tournament, so I think it’s really important.” The feelings toward Augustana are mutual throughout the coaching staff, including to head coach Jen Bagley-Trotter. “Augustana has kind of proven to be our nemesis here in the last year or two,” Bagley-Trotter said. “There isn’t a freshman on the team who doesn’t know what is expected of them in that game, so it’ll be fun.” To wrap up the tournament, Western faces the Wayne State Wildcats and the hosting St. Cloud Huskies. During last year’s Crossover, the Griffons managed to leave the tournament with a 3-1 record including a 1-3 loss to the Vikings and an 11-0 win over the tournament host, St. Cloud. After suffering a couple large margin losses, coach Bagley-Trotter knows they need to improve in all areas of the game in order to be successful for the rest of the season. “We need to do a better job of playing all three facets of the game well for seven innings and then multiply that by however many games we play in a weekend,” Bagley-Trotter said. According to Gillaspy, these pre-conference tournaments are critical for team improvement. “We have a lot of young players and it helps them get experience and get comfortable,” Gillaspy said. “Down the road the experience they are getting right now is going to help us during conference play and at the MIAA Tournament.” The Griffons will prepare for a successful tournament and the possibility of revenge as the Crossover begins on Thurs. Feb 19, and continues through Sat. Feb 21.

Griffons take 3 of 4 in HSU Tourney

Griffon softball opened up the 2015 season on the road in Arkadelphia, Arkansas, at the Henderson State Tournament. Saturday, Feb. 7, Western faced off against the host school Henderson State. First baseman Paige Shifflett opened the top of the second inning with a solo homer to left field. Shifflett went 1 of 3 in the game. Second baseman Tiffany Gillaspy hit a solo homer of her own to left field in the top of the third inning. Gillaspy went 1 of 3 from the plate. Those two solo shots sealed the Griffons' 2-0 victory over the Reddies. The Griffons continued their momentum going into Saturday's late game against Mississippi College. A hot start from the Choctaws gave them a 2-0 lead over Western in the first inning off of two singles. Pitcher Janie Smith, who went 2 of 3 from the plate, hit a solo homer to left to keep the Griffons within one in the second inning. Mississippi College added one more after an error in the fourth, making it 3-1 in favor of the Choctaws. Gillaspy hit another home run in the bottom of the fourth. Morgan Rathmann hit a homer to right center, scoring Taylor Schaben. That 2-run shot gave the Griffons a 4-3 lead in the fifth inning. Shifflett scored Gillaspy after hitting a double. The Griffons took the second game of the day 5-3 over the Choctaws. Head coach Jen Bagley-Trotter was happy with how Saturday's games have gone. "It was really good for the club to get the feeling...this is how we play," Bagley-Trotter said. "Saturday night was a really good night. That felt great." Sunday, Feb. 8 was the day of two halves for Western. The Griffons opened up the day against Arkansas-Monticello. Western started off hot, scoring two quick runs in the first inning. But, they weren't done yet. After going into the fourth inning with a 2-0 lead, the Griffons went on to score 12 more runs in that inning alone. Western stormed past the Boo Weevils of Arkansas-Monticello 14-0. "The ball was ginormous against Arkansas-Monticello," Bagley-Trotter said. "That's, traditionally, a very good program." They closed the tournament against Ouachita Baptist. The Griffons couldn't get anything going at the plate. They were on the wrong side of a one-hit shutout. The Tigers used a four-run fourth inning to win 8-0 over the Griffons. "I think we got to see some good things, some things that have us excited about the future of what our season could do and could be," Bagley-Trotter. "But, I think we saw some things that we're going to have to do a good job of controlling, handling and maturing." Western will head back to Arkansas this weekend for the Arkansas-Monticello Tourney. They are set to play Truman State on Friday, Feb. 13. First pitch is at 11 a.m.

The Calm Before The Storm

  Missouri Western’s softball team is gearing up to face a fierce rival in Northeastern State University at home Friday, on April 25. The double-header, with games at 4:oo p.m. and 6:00 p.m., will be a tough fight for the team. Tiffany Gillaspy, junior infielder, is both cautious and optimistic about Northeastern. “They are a scrappy team, and we can’t take them lightly,” Gillaspy said. “We really need to hit the ball well.” Jennifer Bagley, softball's head coach, is treating the opposing Northeastern squad with respect. “This is their second year with their new coach and they are hitting the ball pretty well," Bagley said. As far as  Western’s strategy goes, Bagley is confident in what needs to be done. “We need to get our pitches effective, take care of the ball, maintain good defense and score with the runners we have in scoring position, which is a something we haven’t done all season,” Bagley said. Jackie Bishop, senior pitcher, has a few personal goals she is setting for the Northeastern squad. “I need to focus on hitting my targets and making sure my ball is perfect,” Bishop said. Following the double header with Northeastern, Western will face off against the University of Central Oklahoma for another double-header at home on Saturday, April 26, at noon and 2 p.m. Bagley's only concern, as small as it is, is thinking about playing Central Oklahoma, a team sitting at second in the standings, before playing Northeastern. “We can’t overlook Northeastern by thinking about Central Oklahoma,” Bagley said. Following the game against Central Oklahoma, Western’s next game will be the in the MIAA tournament, unless a catastrophic event in the standings occurs. The MIAA tournament will start on Thursday, May 1, in Overland Park, Kan,, with the top eight teams in the MIAA making it in. Western is currently third in the MIAA standings, while Northeastern is back in the eighth position. Only first-place Emporia State University, Central Oklahoma and fourth-place Fort Hays State University have clinched a spot in the MIAA postseason tournament, which is leaving Western hungry for a win against Fort Hays State in the standings. Northeastern will be playing with more drive on Friday as well due to conference standings. Currently placed in the eighth  position, they would be the final team to make into the tournament, and a loss could drop them into ninth position. The confidence for a postseason run is high by Gillaspy's standards. “We should be fine in the tournament,” Gillaspy said. “We are a completely different team than we were last year.” Being in the final game in the MIAA is key for Western. “We need to play on the final day for a regional bid,” Bagley said regarding the NCAA tournament following the MIAA tournament.  

Griffons invite the Bronchos for final Double Header (ND)

The Griffon softball season is coming to a close as Western prepares to welcome the  Central Oklahoma Bronchos to the Spring Sports Complex. UCO and Western double-header will be the last two games of the regular season. The Bronchos are 36-12 overall and 19-3 in MIAA play. They have also claimed a permanent spot in the MIAA tournament. UCO currently sits in second place in the MIAA standings. Head Coach Jen Bagley is excited for the upcoming matchup and believes that the Griffons are ready. "UCO is the defending national champions," Bagley said. "It is unbelievable that we are at  the final conference weekend. I feel that our team is at an exciting place. We aren't waiting for another team to lose. We just have to take care of business." Catcher Kat Steponovich has faith in the Griffons going into the matchup “I have a lot of respect for the UCO softball program," Steponovich said. "They’ve always been a tough opponent but I think its important to keep in mind that we are a tough opponent, for others as well. I have faith in my team to control and play them as we should” Western is at a 31-15 overall record and 14-8 in MIAA play. In the MIAA standings Western is currently ranked third, directly behind UCO. All of the Griffons have agreed that UCO is a powerhouse team with solid hitting and great pitching. But Western pitcher Jackie Bishop has only one concern. “I looked at their pitchers stats and she’s almost identical to me. It’s like looking in a mirror!” Bishop said. “It’s going to be a tough game.” Although the Bronchos have only lost three-conference games, infielder Taylor Anding feels that playing UCO so late in the season is an advantage for the Griffons. “They will probably be one of the best teams we have played this season,” Anding said. “However, playing them so late in the season might be an advantage, because we have been able to practice and adequately prepare for what have been their strengths all season.” The UCO game is huge for Bishop, Steponovich, Anding, Michelle Stevenson and Sydney McCune especially. It will be their final regular season double-header for Griffons. Even though the MIAA tournament is right around the corner from the UCO double header, the soon-to-be graduates are still feeling the effects of their careers coming to an end at Western. “This season has flown by,” Bishop said. “Knowing there’s no more ‘one more season’ for me to play is very sad, but I couldn’t have asked for more than my four years at Western, I have loved it.” Anding has expressed her gratitude for the opportunity to take the field with the team that she considers her sisters. “The girls that I have had the privilege of playing with  have changed my life,” Anding said, “I also have two coaches that I consider my moms away from home. They have been awesome coaches when it came to making me a better softball player and overall person” Bagley feels that this season's team is full of spirit and drive "This is a really great group of young ladies," Bagley said, "We  have the right kind of leadership in our seniors. They are savoring every moment and not wanting it to end. That is a powerful motivator. With that kind of mentality, good things will happen." The Griffons will take on the Bronchos of UCO on Apr. 26. First pitch is scheduled for noon.

Griffons ready to sweep weekend double-headers

Missouri Western will be on the road this weekend to play two double-headers against Lincoln and Lindenwood. Riding on a six-game winning streak going into Tuesday's non-conference double-header against rival Northwest, the Griffons are keeping their expectations high going into the weekend. "Both teams are teams that we have to make sure we're playing our best [against], because, both of them have played some games really tight. Their records may not be great, but they're playing teams tight, so we have to make sure we're ready to go," head softball coach Jen Bagley said. The Griffons will first head to St. Charles, Mo, for their two games against the Lions of Lindenwood. The Lions, who sit at 14-19 overall and 8-10 in MIAA play, have lost five of their last eight games. Courtney Opich is a threat from the plate for Lindenwood. She currently leads the team in several categories, including a batting average at .416 and hits, with 32 hits and four home runs. From the field, the Griffons need to be wary of Brittany Rozier. Rozier currently has 153 putouts, which leads the Lions. The following day, Western will travel to Jefferson City, Mo, for the double-header against Lincoln. The Blue Tigers sit at 3-28 overall and 0-18 in MIAA play. They're currently suffering from an eight-game losing streak. While their record doesn't show it, Lincoln is stacked with hard-hitters. Sam Kircher is the leader in batting average for the Blue Tigers, sitting at .338. She also leads her team with seven home runs and 16 RBIs. Erin Sommerer is the fielding threat for Lincoln, with 180 putouts and a fielding average of .979. "We'd like to come back 4-0. We'd like to make sure we take care of business like we're supposed to. I think we would want to make sure our offense is still capable of scoring five plus runs. If we can make that our goal, we'll win," Bagley said. The Griffons are 26-14 so far this season, and 11-7 in MIAA play. They started the season slow, but have really found their rhythm in recent weeks. "I think we've had a lot of ups and downs. We're maybe struggling a little bit more than what we had anticipated at the beginning of the year. And yet, I think that now we're starting to play some of our best softball, which may play into a greater plan that I was unaware of, which is just making sure that we're playing our best at the end," Bagley said. Infielder Tiffany Gillaspy is hitting a powerful .381 batting average. She leads the team in hits at 48, home runs at nine and RBIs at 32. Catcher Kat Steponovich is leading the Griffons with 265 putouts so far this season. But a big story this season for the Griffons has been pitcher Jackie Bishop. "Our team has improved on scoring runs since the beginning of the season. When we first started out, we were having a little trouble pushing runs across the plate, but, as the season goes on, we are doing a better job with run support," Bishop said. Bishop is currently at a .94 ERA. At a 17-9 record, Bishop has allowed 94 hits across 164.2 innings. She has struck out 193 batters. Bishop currently has four no-hitters, three of which came this season. She pitched her first career perfect game in Western's 10-0 victory over St. Cloud State. "Our team needs to just play to our best ability and we can compete with any team, so if we just do small things right and play the way we are capable of we should be fine this weekend," Bishop said. The Griffons will finish their last regular season road trip this weekend against Lindenwood and Lincoln. First pitch of the weekend is set for 1:00 p.m. on Friday, April 11.