Lady Blues take to the diamond with little to lose

Luke Warnken, Washburn Review

In her second season at the helm of the Washburn Lady Blues’ softball team, Vanessa Becerra is still trying to right the ship. 

After going 19-24 in her first season, the Lady Blues (6-14, 2-4 MIAA) are trying to find a way to win again. 

“Our numbers don’t show on paper,” said Becerra. “I think it could be a good thing for us. We can come out and surprise some people.”

Things haven’t been easy this season for the Blues. The weather this spring has been horrendous for any outside team. Snow storms have forced the Lady Blues to go indoors making it hard to simulate game-day situations. 

“We got spoiled last year so it’s the first year for us to have to deal with this,” said Becerra. “I think we’re fortunate in having the indoor cages and the resources to come inside. The aspect of working on defense and it not being very realistic is pretty tough.”

Washburn’s youth and inexperience was evident early on as they struggled to win, but the Lady Blues have taken three out of their last eight as conference play begins to hit full swing. Three wins may not seem that important, but the Blues doubled their win total and are more confident heading into their matchup with Emporia State University. The game is scheduled to be played March 27 in Topeka, but because of weather conditions the game may have to be moved back to Thursday.

“The sun has done a great job of melting the snow out there, but the infield is still pretty wet,” said Becerra.

Washburn has had a week to prepare for ESU since their last outing. While most of Washburn’s students were out and about enjoying spring break, the Blues travled to Missouri to square off with the Jennies of Central Missouri.

The Blues gave up a run in the bottom of the first inning as the Jennies took an early 1-0 lead, but Washburn exploded offensively in the top of the second inning. Junior shortstop Shelby Erickson got things started off by doubling into left field. Sophomore pitcher Lauren Thimmesch was walked and rightfielder Deidra Jones singled in the next at-bat to load the bases. With one out and bases loaded, freshman centerfielder Haylee Marstellar went deep to center field for a grand slam giving the Lady Blues a 4-1 lead. Central Missouri tacked on a run in the bottom of the third off a Jakki Prater single that brought in Braylyn Bivens. 

Neither team was able to drive in any more runs until Washburn added two insurance runs in the top of the sixth inning. Katie Schroeder sent a pitch to first base driving in Marstellar and sophomore catcher Kristen Bell. The Jennies were able to tack on a run in the bottom of the sixth, but were unable to catch-up, falling 6-3 to the Lady Blues.

“I think we’re still working out some kinks,” said Becerra. “We’re still trying to get all our offensive hitters running on all cylinders.”

Things were eerily similar in the second game as the Jennies took an early 1-0 lead. Washburn tallied things up in the top of the second when Erickson homered to lead off the inning. Jones doubled to right center and Bell and leftfielder Sklyer Gentry were walked to load up the bases for the Blues. For the second time Schroeder came up big, this time doubling to center field to drive clear the bases as Washburn jumped out to another 4-1 lead. 

Not to be outdone, UCM closed the gap in the bottom of second inning. Kristen Heil homered to center field to come within one run. Pitcher Marina Quimby began to struggle, walking three batters to load the bases. Thimmesch entered to stop the bleeding, but UCM was able to make WU pay by driving in five runs to give the Jennies a comfortable 8-4 lead. Central Missouri added two more runs in the bottom of the third. Jones went yard in the top of the fourth to bring Washburn within five, but three more runs in the bottom of the fifth gave UCM the 13-5 win.

“We just haven’t hit our peak,” said Becerra. “It’s coming, we are just a little slow getting there.”

Whether or not Washburn plays March 27 or March 28, they will have tough time knocking off Emporia State. Emporia (17-8, 4-2 MIAA) 

“It’s exciting because I know the talent and potential we have,” said Becerra.