After pounding out 34 hits during a three-game winning streak in Yuma, Ariz., last week, all signs pointed to the Western Nevada College softball teamâ€™s offense being ready to do some damage in Scenic West Athletic Conference play. But College of Southern Idaho, which was ranked No. 13 in the preseason NJCAA national poll, had other ideas.
Sierra Whitmer and Brandi Hall limited the Wildcats to just five hits in sweeping a SWAC doubleheader, 16-3 and 10-1, on Wednesday in St. George, Utah. Whitmer allowed only two hits, including Heather Septonâ€™s first home run as a Wildcat. In game two, Hall relinquished three hits, two off the bat of freshman Madison Gonzalez.
â€œI donâ€™t know exactly why we struggled at the plate,â€ said WNC Coach Leah Wentworth. â€œThe CSI pitchers werenâ€™t any different from what weâ€™ve seen in the preseason. â€œIt seemed like we werenâ€™t as aggressive as we have been at the plate, letting a lot of pitches go by.â€
Although the Wildcats fell behind 3-0 in the opener, they responded with a game-tying three-run rally in the top of the second. Septon smashed a three-run homer to center with two outs to plate Caroline McCarthy and Andrea Lee. McCarthy started the one-out rally with a hit by pitch, and Lee reached on a fielderâ€™s choice after Jennifer Rechel singled.
But the momentum swung back to the Golden Eaglesâ€™ side in a hurry in the bottom of the second. CSI sent 12 hitters to the plate to score seven times and take a commanding 10-3 lead. Lea Hopsonâ€™s three-run homer off Carlee Beck highlighted the uprising.
â€œHeather came through with a big hit,â€ Wentworth said. â€œIt was surprising we werenâ€™t able to put anything together after that. â€œThis is a good team we are facing. They are always looking to take extra bases, and defensively, we made some errors and gave them added momentum.â€
In the second game, CSIâ€™s Aubrey Whitmer smacked a two-run homer in a three-run first inning and finished with three hits, three runs scored and four RBI. The Golden Eagles surged ahead 6-0 before WNC got on the scoreboard in the third inning. A walk to Tori Crowell, Jennifer Quamâ€™s base hit and a single to center by Gonzalez loaded the bases with no outs. Sydney Darby brought Crowell home with a fielderâ€™s choice, but a Septon groundout and a Rechel lineout ended the rally. WNC put just one runner on base over the final two innings.
â€œWe did play much better,â€ Wentworth said. â€œWe pitched well.â€
Sophomore Ali Marie Lostra threw four innings, striking out six and allowing five earned runs.
The Wildcats, 0-2 in the SWAC and 3-12 overall, conclude the four-game series at CSI with two games on Thursday.
â€œHopefully, weâ€™ll take a different hitting approach into (Thursday), because I have a feeling we are going to see the same pitchers,â€ Wentworth said. â€œOur hitters need to go into those games with a different game plan.â€
WNC wonâ€™t play a home contest until Friday, Feb. 22.
â€œWe really need everything to come together for us. Weâ€™ve been on the road for three weeks now, and itâ€™s always difficult for any team to play well on the road,â€ Wentworth said. â€œWe need to find the right combination defensively; weâ€™ve been shuffling people around to find the right combination, and hopefully weâ€™ll find that winning combination.â€