Holiday Inn Classic next for Lady Tops

Bailey Townsend

The Lady Toppers are set to face Austin Peay and Missouri State twice on Feb. 19-20 for their first home games of the season as they compete at home in the Holiday Inn Hilltopper Classic.

The tournament is the first of two home invitationals for WKU as it will also compete in the Holiday Inn Hilltopper Spring Fling next weekend.

“We play 29 home games this season including two tournaments that I think will be very beneficial for our team,” Head Coach Amy Tudor said.

Facing the Lady Toppers first will be the Austin Peay Governors on Friday at 12:30, who finished their 2015 season with a 9-37 record, winning only five games at home and three games on the road. The Governors also finished with a 5-22 record in Ohio Valley Conference play.

Austin Peay has only played two games this season so far, winning one and losing one to Gardner-Webb University in a two-game series at Boiling Springs, North Carolina.

Despite having a less than promising record in their 2015 season, the Lady Governors have quite a few returning players, including seven starters and five pitchers, among their 20-player roster.

The returning players also include four of Austin Peay’s top five hitters from 2015, 100 percent of their pitching and five seniors.

Next to face the Lady Toppers at 3:00 p.m. will be Missouri State, who finished with a record of 30-25 from last season. It also finished with a record of 17-9 during its conference play last year.

The Lady Bears have started this season so far with a 3-2 record, losing to Detroit and UT Arlington while gaining a win against Texas Southern and two more victories against Northern Colorado in the UT Arlington Invitational.

For Missouri State, it seems that pitcher Erin Struemph will be a major key to its future  success.

Struemph pitched a complete game in the win against Texas Southern, finishing the game with six strikeouts. She also pitched the shutout against Northern Colorado.

The Lady Toppers are off to a solid start to their 2016 season as they enter the home invitational with a record of 3-1. The Lady Toppers secured wins against Appalachian State, Butler and Furman while losing to fourth-ranked Auburn.

Despite losing standout pitcher Miranda Kramer, the Lady Toppers are off to a solid start on the mound with junior pitcher Kathryn Downing earning her first win this season against Furman.

“I have the same confidence in our [pitching] staff this year as we had last year,” Downing said. 

Downing only allowed one earned run over 4 1/3 innings and recorded three strikeouts. Redshirt sophomore Kelsey Jernigan came to relieve Downing, adding another three strikeouts to the total.

In the victory against Furman, sophomore pitcher Hannah Parker and sophomore utility player Jordan Mauch proved to be a force at the plate.

The duo of Parker and Mauch combined for four of WKU’s eight hits on the afternoon. Parker finished 2-for-3 with an RBI and a team-high .500 batting average, while Mauch finished with a pair of hits and a RBI in four at bats.

With the Holiday Inn Hilltopper Classic starting on Friday, it seems that the Lady Tops are more than ready to take on the challenge of Missouri State and Austin Peay.