Softball looks to improve after 0-4 opening weekend

Story by Bailey Conklin, Sports Editor

The Baker softball team traveled to Conway, Arkansas over the weekend to open its season in the Central Baptist tournament. The weekend proved to be difficult for the Wildcats, who posted an 0-4 record to start the 2017 campaign.

The Wildcats stayed close in all games, and freshman Riley Swickard believes the team can only get better after its season-opening weekend.

“We played the entire weekend with heart and energy, which was something we focused on a lot in our offseason,” Swickard said. “The games that we did lose, obviously that is kind of heartbreaking when you’ve been working so hard all winter, but at the same time you can only go up from there.”

The Wildcats first faced Bacone College and Hannibal-LaGrange on Friday, followed by games against Ottawa University and No. 5 Williams Baptist College on Saturday.

The Wildcats fell to Bacone College 2-1. Pitcher Olivia Brees held Bacone to just three hits and 13 strikeouts, but Bacone’s Nia Maxwell was able to bat in the Warriors’ two runs with a hit in the fourth inning.

For the Wildcats’ offense, sophomore Hannah Tolliver brought in junior Savannah Bellem to score a run in the fifth inning, but the Wildcats were not able to build on their score the rest of the game with Bacone’s pitcher Griffin Gilbert allowing just two hits in seven innings.

Baker then faced Hannibal-LaGrange, for its second game of the day, and lost 4-1. Baker pitcher Teagan Louthan recorded six strikeouts but gave up eight hits in her seven innings of pitching.

Freshman Sydney Boaz recorded the lone run for the Wildcats off an RBI from junior Jamie Haden.

The Wildcats started their Saturday against Ottawa with an extra-inning game. The Wildcats struck first by scoring two runs in the first inning, followed by one run in the second, and one in the third.

Freshman Madison Allen had a team high two hits for the game. Swickard and junior Stephanie Cardona had one RBI each. The Baker defense saw three pitching changes starting with junior Lexi Korte replacing junior Madison Nedved after 3.2 innings, followed by Olivia Brees finishing out the game.

Ottawa was able to tie up the game after the sixth inning, causing the game to go into an extra inning after a scoreless seventh inning. Brees took the loss after giving up the winning run for the Braves in the eighth inning, which ended in a 5-4 win for Ottawa.

The Wildcats last game in the tournament was a 4-3 loss against No. 5 Williams Baptist College.

The Wildcats had an explosive offense while playing their final game in Arkansas. Swickard recorded two home runs for the Wildcats, one in the second inning that brought in a run from Allen and one in the seventh inning, sending the game into extra innings. Swickard also recorded a game high 3 RBIs.

Swickard said big hits from all team members can help boost confidence when needed.

“I came into my college career kind of in a slump, and I think the coaches really picked me up and we worked really hard this winter,” Swickard said. “So that was a really big pick-me-up, and I think people feed off of that stuff when it happens. The team is coming together as a whole from big hits like that and there were other people who had other great bats as well.”

Brees finished out the Wildcats’ last game earning 13 strikeouts, but allowing eight hits, including two runs in the fourth inning, followed by one in the sixth, and the game-winner in the ninth.

The Wildcats will now have the week to rebuild until they travel to McPherson, on Feb. 25 to face McPherson College for a doubleheader beginning at noon.