Softball prepares for conference tournament

Story by Levi Blaylock, Writer

Finishing 12-31 overall in the regular season and 7-11 in conference play, the Baker University softball team was busy at work the past two weeks, splitting a doubleheader against Missouri Valley College April 21 and then being swept by Kansas Wesleyan on April 25. Two days later, the Wildcats made up a postponed doubleheader at Graceland University and lost both games.

Junior pitcher Mallorie Nelson provided a highlight as she threw a perfect game in the first game against Missouri Valley. Nelson is the first Baker pitcher in two years to throw a perfect game. Nelson was able to strike out seven of the 21 batters she saw in Tuesday’s action.

“I felt very excited and proud of myself to throw a no-hitter” Nelson said. “It is something that I have always wanted to do and I was finally able to make it happen.”

In the first game the Wildcats were able to walk away with a 7-0 victory. Senior Peyton Weekly was 3-4 at the plate and scored two runs. Three Wildcats doubled in the game, including sophomores Sammie Schroeder and Lizzie Stover and junior Kelsey Vollenweider.

The Wildcats were unable to carry the momentum from the exciting win into the second game and Baker lost 8-4 to the Vikings. Freshman Teagan Louthan started the game on the mound and pitched 2.1 innings, allowing three earned runs before being replaced by sophomore Katt Cooper. Cooper gave up three runs in the third and one in the fourth before being replaced by Nelson. The Wildcat pitchers allowed 17 hits with three errors in the field.

Baker’s offense had only one extra base hit in game two. The Wildcats scored three runs in the first frame and one in the fifth. Schroeder scored two of those runs, going 1-4 at the plate. Freshman Allie Zahn roped two singles and a double, driving in two runs.

Saturday was senior day for the Wildcats as they played a non-conference doubleheader with the Coyotes of Kansas Wesleyan. Nelson, who started, was unable to repeat her dominant performance and lost her perfect game by issuing a walk to the second batter she faced. Wesleyan then pounced on Nelson for five runs in the second inning. Baker scored one run in the fourth and then the Coyotes exploded again for five runs in the sixth inning. KWU won game one 10-3.

In game two Kansas Wesleyan blanked the Wildcats with an 8-0 victory. Baker didn’t have any extra-base hits and only reached base on four hits. Zahn, Stover, Nelson, and freshman Stephanie Cardona were the only players to get a hit.

The Wildcats concluded conference play by making up its conference doubleheader with Graceland that was originally scheduled for April 18. Both games ended up being low scoring with Baker only plating one runner in the series.

In game one, Baker out-hit Graceland 5-2, but the Yellow Jackets capitalized on their two hits to score two runs. Graceland only had three base runners the entire game and two scored. Baker stranded six runners and failed to knock in the runs behind Nelson, who fanned six batters in her six innings pitched.

In game two Nelson helped herself out in the first inning with an RBI double for the team’s first run in 15 innings. In the second inning, Graceland scored all of its runs with three coming off Nelson and two off Louthan, one earned. Louthan finished the final 4.1 innings without any more runs and Baker lost 5-1. Baker’s offense only had one hit after the first inning and the Wildcats fell for the fifth straight game.

The HAAC tournament begins on Thursday at the Blue Valley Recreation Complex in Overland Park. Baker earned the sixth seed and will play third-seeded MidAmerica Nazarene. Baker split with MNU on April 4 and with a win would take on the winner of second-seed Avila and seventh-seed Missouri Valley on Friday at 11 a.m. The Wildcats must win the conference tournament to earn a bid to the national tournament.

“I am feeling confident going into the tournament. I know we can win but it takes everyone believing we can to make it happen.” Nelson said. “The key going into the HAAC tournament is everyone has to believe in themselves and each other.”