The Baker softball team is full of confidence heading into the HAAC Tournament after winning five of the last eight conference games of the regular season.
The Wildcats finished the regular season with an overall record of 17-29, and a 7-13 record in conference play. This is the first time in four years that the Wildcats have qualified for the postseason conference tournament.
“It’s very important and very exciting for our team,” senior Chelsi Taylor said. “It’s saying something for a program that has been struggling the past few years.”
The team has rallied around first year coach Matt Windle in its effort to make the conference tournament.
“He has energized us to be ready to play and he brings a lot of energy to the team,” junior Katie Worley said.
Windle and the team set a goal at the beginning of the season to make the conference tournament, but reaching that goal was in serious doubt a few weeks ago.
Freshman pitcher Heather Gruber has led the team the last few weeks of the season in its playoff push. Gruber has a record of 14-13 with an ERA of 3.39 going into the conference tournament.
“Heather Gruber has brought a completely different pitching style,” Taylor said. “Her change of speed has been extremely effective.”
The Wildcats have also gained confidence from the two seniors on the team. The two seniors have become well acquainted with each other, with Taylor playing second base and fellow middle-infielder Kelsey Epperson, Baker Orange staff writer, playing shortstop.
“They’re both really positive and determined,” Worley said. “They help the attitude of the team a lot.”
With newly found momentum after being able to play well under pressure the past few weeks, the team believes it is ready to make an impact in the tournament. Settling for being satisfied with making the tournament will not be an option, though.
“We’ve realized we can really beat anyone if we all go out and work hard and put our minds to it,” Worley said.
Windle believes this year is just the beginning of success his team can achieve.
“Next year, our No. 1 goal for the season won’t just be making the tournament,” Windle said. “It will be moving past that and possibly even hosting a game in the conference tournament, which would mean finishing in the top four of the conference.”
Windle and the Wildcats are thrilled to be playing in the conference tournament and hope to show off their poise to the rest of the conference.
“From not playing in the conference tournament, you can get stigma from being at the bottom of the conference,” Windle said. “Making the tournament looks good for the university and looks good for the team too.”