Lady Blues go 4-4 over break

Breaking Even Freshman pitcher Kayla Oldham unleashes a pitch during a recent game.

Luke Warnken / Washburn Review

While most Washburn students were looking forward to spring break as a time of rest and relaxation, the only sand the Washburn Lady Blues softball team saw was the dirt of softball diamonds.

The Blues had a plate full of games on their schedule in a two week span. They started off their Friday of spring break against Southern Baptist University. Senior pitcher Lindsey Moore went the distance in the opener as Washburn won 6-5 in 12 innings. Freshman catcher Kristen Bell, who had three hits in the opener, knocked in senior Britny Cushing for the winning run as Washburn scored three runs in the bottom of the 12th to pull out the win. The nightcap was less stressful as the Lady Blues shutout the Bearcats 6-0.

The Blues got blanked in their next game against Central Missouri University the next day. Jennies’ pitcher Sarah Espy only allowed three hits and UCM got help as Washburn made some costly mistakes on defense. Moore who pitched 12 innings the prior night only surrendered seven hits and three earned runs but the Blues had three errors as they fell 8-0.           

UCM helped the Lady Blues out the next game with three errors of their own. The score was 0-0 going into the third but two Jennie errors along with five Washburn hits turned into nine runs. Washburn tacked on another one in the bottom of the fifth to end the game in a run rule.

“I was really proud of the way the girls fought back,” said Washburn head softball coach Vanessa Becerra. “They showed a lot of fight and came back and won the second game.”

The Lady Blues ended their weekend with a Sunday finale in Wayne, Neb., against Wayne State University. The Blues started strong as Moore and junior first baseman Alex Zordel went yard back-to-back to take a 2-0 lead. Wayne State rallied in the second and third innings to take a four run lead. Cushing knocked another one over the fence in the top of the fifth but the home run went unnoticed as the Wildcats added on three more runs in the bottom of the same inning. The Blues failed to catch up finally falling 9-5. Despite the loss the Lady Blues pulled out a 2-1 win the second game of the twinbill. Moore helped herself in the circle by driving in the game-winning RBI with a ground out sending junior Erin Macaronas in for the go ahead run.

The following outing was much tougher for Moore as she gave up nine earned runs on 14 hits in six innings of work against the future MIAA conference foe Lindenwood University. Four of those earned runs came in the bottom of the seventh as the Lions notched the score at nine to force extra innings. Luckily Washburn was able to manage enough runs to match Lindenwood run for run. In the top of the ninth inning senior outfielder Kacy Covert got on base with a double. Sophomore second baseman Katie Schroeder brought her home with a single that gave Washburn the 10-9 victory in nine innings.

“It’s nice to see that when we fight for that long that we can come out on top,” said Becerra. “It just proves to show the fight in our team.”           

Washburn won the nightcap 5-2. The Blues went on to wallop Lincoln University 11-2 and 1-0 as they stole two road conference games. The Lady Blues had a season-high 19 hits in the first game jumping out to an early 5-1 lead. They scored another four runs in the top of the fourth to take a commanding lead that would never diminish. Covert singled in the seventh inning of the second game of the doubleheader and was able to score the lone run of the game off of a Blue Tiger throwing error. Freshman pitcher Kayla Oldham came away with the shutout while giving up six hits.           

Finally the Blues were able to catch a break as they squared off with instate and NAIA foe Ottawa University. The Division II Lady Blues should have no problem taking down their NAIA opponent, or so one would think.       

“I don’t stress the other team to the girls,” said Becerra. “We only talk about Washburn softball.”

  The Lady Braves gave the Lady Blues more than they bargined for in the first game of the two game series. Washburn trailed Ottawa 2-1 until Zordel hit a grand slam to give the Blues a 5-2 victory. Zordel finished the game 4 for 4 with four RBIs.          

“She’s came up big in some crucial situations,” said Becerra. “She’s definitely been clutch for us this year.”         

Washburn had little trouble the second game as they extended their win streak to seven games with a 12-2 win. The sweep brought their record even, 13-13.  

The streak was cut short soon though. On March 30th the Blues visited rival Emporia State University in the softball version of the Turnpike Tussle. The No. 25-ranked Hornets got their money’s worth from Washburn who forced game one into extra innings. Moore doubled and Zordel singled in the top of the third. Sophomore short stop Shelby Erickson then doubled to right center, driving in both runs to give Washburn a 2-0 lead. The Lady Blues surrendered two runs in the fifth and sixth inning as the game came to a 2-2 tie at the end of regulation. Moore, who ended the game with three hits and pitched all 11 innings, again doubled in the top of the tenth bringing in Macaronas. Washburn gave up a run in the bottom of the tenth and then got blanked in the top of the eleventh inning. The Hornets took advantage as Taylor Zordel drove in the winning run.   

“I think the only thing that is disappointing is to lose a game like that,” said Becerra. “The exciting part is that we did all against them (Emporia State).      

Again Washburn jumped out to an early lead, 4-1, only to have it slip away as they fell 8-4. Things didn’t get much better in their next doubleheader the following day, the last of March. The Lady Blues travelled to St. Joseph, MO., to face off with the No. 21-ranked Missouri Western Griffons. The Griffons were just too much for the Blues as they defeated Washburn 8-0 and 9-7. Washburn only managed two hits to Missouri Western’s 14 in the opener. The Blues had three errors in the game as they got run ruled in six innings of play.

“I don’t feel like we should have got run ruled that game,” said Becerra. “There were balls going underneath our legs, dropping the ball at first. Just lack of focus things.”

It didn’t get much better in the nightcap. Washburn was down early as two of their five errors lead to Missouri Western runs early. Things continued to get worse in the bottom of the sixth as the Blues did not help themselves, giving up six Griffon runs, three of which were unearned. Washburn trailed 8-2 but was able to score five runs the following inning as Moore went yard again, this time with a much needed grand slam. Not to be outdone, Zordel smacked one out the very next at bat. But the Griffons were too much as Washburn lost 9-7. Oldham gave up eight hits in the game but only gave up three earned ones. Defensive woes for the Lady Blues turned out to be their downfall against the fiesty Griffons.

“Defense has got to buckle down,” said Becerra.

Weather has started to become a factor. The days have gotten much hotter lately, something the Blues will have to adjust too. Beccera did not use the weather as an excuse and despite the past four losses the coach is happy with where her time is at.

“I look back at the fall and see how far we’ve come now and I’m happy with it,” said Becerra. “We came out and showed these two teams that we can come out and compete. We made them work for it.”

Washburn softball will be back in action April 6th at home against Northeastern State University. The Lady Blues are now 13-17 overall and 5-7 in MIAA play.