Softball splits weekend tournament

Senior infield Olivia Watkins (17) attempts to tag out a slide into second base at the women’s softball game against the University of Northern Iowa on Friday, February 28 at Buchanon Park in Bowling Green, Ky. The tops lost 3-6. (Kreable Young/HERALD)

Austin Lanter

The games may have been held in Bowling Green, but the Hilltopper Spring Classic felt more like an away tournament at Buchanon Park over the weekend.

WKU and five other teams played four games over the course of the weekend with the fifth game, scheduled for Sunday, canceled due to weather.

For WKU (11-6-1), the tournament had a night-and-day difference from the first day of the tournament to the second.

After dropping two games to Green Bay and Northern Illinois, Saturday’s wins against Indiana State and Wright State came as a result of shifting focuses.

“We talked a lot after our first two games and nothing was really working for us,” senior infielder Olivia Watkins said. “So we decided to come in as a team and fight for the rest of the tournament.”

Fellow classmate and infielder Amanda Thomas contributed the turnaround from Friday to the energy level and everything coming together.

“I feel like we had a lot more energy warming up,” Thomas said. “That’s a small part but it’s just pretty much how our team is. It transferred to the field. We just all played together. Every aspect of the game was there, pitching, hitting, and fielding.”

In the first game against the Sycamores of Indiana State, the Lady Toppers used a big fifth inning to propel them to victory.

In that inning, WKU scored six runs on five hits and an error to turn a 2-0 deficit into a 6-2 lead. The team added another run in the sixth inning to win the game 7-2.

In the second game the story was much the same. After allowing four runs in the top of the fourth, the Lady Toppers responded with a seven-run bottom of the fourth to take the lead and ultimately the game 8-5.

“(Coach Amy Tudor) really didn’t say much, but just staying positive,” Watkins said. “We got a little rowdy in the dugout and that helps a lot, so a lot of positive energy involved.”

Tudor contributed the turnaround Saturday to pitching, saying the team hit well both days but pitched better Saturday.

Those wins came after WKU began the tournament against Green Bay, who was seeing action for the first time the season.

With the game tied 2-2, WKU broke through in the bottom of the sixth to take a 5-2 lead. But in the last inning, the Lady Toppers allowed four runs and lost the game 6-5.

Freshman pitcher Hannah Miniard (5-1) lost her first game of the season as she came on in relief of the started Janna Scheff. Miniard only went 1.2 innings, allowing four hits and four runs.

“It starts in the circle and we lost it a little bit,” Tudor said. “The facts are the facts and (Miniard) knows it, and she’s a freshman and she’s learning.”

The second game pitted WKU up against Northern Iowa. The Panthers used the long-ball Friday to get the best of the Lady Toppers, blasting two home runs in the game. In the end, UNI took the game 6-3.

WKU will be back in action this weekend in Knoxville, Tenn., for the Tennessee Tournament. The first game for the Lady Toppers will be Friday against Holy Cross. The team will play five games over the course of the tournament.