WKU looks to spoil MTSU’s tournament hopes

Sophomore infielder Amanda Thomas fields the ball during a doubleheader against Louisiana-Lafayette Saturday at the WKU Softball Complex. WKU lost the first game of the doubleheader 4-1 and the second game 2-1.

Hasani Grayson

The Lady Toppers play their last home game of the season on Thursday, but their two-game set this weekend against Middle Tennessee could have an impact on the Sun Belt Conference Tournament.

WKU (28-23-1,9-12-1 Sun Belt) has secured its spot in the tournament as it currently sits in sixth place.

If WKU lost both of its remaining conference games, it would still place no lower than seventh in a tournament where the top eight teams get a chance to compete for a conference championship.

MTSU is in eighth place and is ahead of ninth-place Florida Atlantic because of its overall record and will be fighting to keep tournament hopes alive this weekend.

Since the pressure will be more on their opponents this weekend, it would be easy for the Lady Toppers to look past the Blue Raiders. But Head Coach Tyra Perry said her team won’t get too far ahead of themselves.

“We have three games this week, so we’re focusing on those first, and then we’ll prepare for the tournament after that,” she said.

MTSU, who beat WKU at home on April 24, will have to deal with a pitching staff that has impressed coaches with their recent performance.

“I’m proud of the young ladies on the mound,” Perry said. “I think they’re competing with each pitch and asking them to do some of things we’ve been asking for all year.”

On paper, the matchup between the bats of the Blue Raiders and pitching arms of the Lady Toppers seems to be pretty even.

MTSU has a team batting average of .272 and has driven in 145 RBIs in the 47 games they’ve played. MTSU also has three players batting over .300 and one player, Kayla Toney, is batting .414 this season.

WKU pitching has a team ERA of 2.82 and an opposing batting average of .240.

Pitching played a big part in keeping last weekend’s games against No. 6 Louisiana-Lafayette close, but the Lady Topper offense is also looking to get it going.

“I feel really confident with runners on base,” freshman infielder Preslie Cruce said. “I have confidence in myself that I can put the ball in play and give the team a chance to score.”

WKU pushed just four runs across in the entire series against ULL but will be looking to bounce back against an MTSU team with a team ERA of 4.43.

Junior outfielder Katrina Metoyer also said she was feeling good about her swing. She said lately she’s been trying to focus on not being as passive at the plate.

“I’m trying to have a more aggressive approach at the plate, not try to watch as many pitches as I had been previously,” she said.

Metoyer also mentioned that she has a thumb injury that, after it affected her against Louisiana-Monroe, is something she feels she has bounced back from.

The two-game set at MTSU will be played as a doubleheader Saturday. After the game, the next opponent will be determined by the conference standings as the tournament begins on May 9 in Boca Raton, Fla.

Cruce said she doesn’t want to get ahead of herself either, but she thinks the team can do well in the post season.

“I’m pretty excited. I told Kat (Katrina Metoyer) that I had a really good feeling about the conference tournament,” she said. “We’re just going to give it our all.”