Coaches look to correct mistakes, challenge players

Hasani Grayson

After last weekend’s lateinning collapses cost WKU some victories against North Texas, the coaching staff challenged the pitchers in practice.

The Lady Toppers (21-14-1) had leads going into the seventh inning of all three of their games against the Mean Green last weekend but suffered two losses and their first tie of the season.

Assistant coach Bonnie Bynum set out to correct the flaws she saw in late inning pitching by running drills that forced them to focus.

“I had them pick their best two pitches, had them throw three of each pitch on a full count, and for every time they didn’t succeed, there was a punishment for it,” she said.

Bynum said the punishments were severe to help simulate the pressure felt in critical game situations.

One of her punishments, “the log roll,” involved having a pitcher roll themselves from one end of the soccer field to the other.

Junior pitcher Kim Wagner said she understood the message the coaches were trying to get across.

“They’ve been trying to simulate pressure and have us try to work through it,” she said. “And if we don’t, we get to do some kind of crazy stuff.”

Wagner didn’t really want to talk about her log roll experience that she said left her tired and disoriented as she struggled through a test in her next class after practice.

When talking about her struggles in the series against North Texas in which she gave up nine runs in 9 1/3 innings pitched, Wagner said she never lost confidence in her best pitches.

“I still feel real confident in my game, my pitches and my teammates,” she said. “Sometimes you throw what you want to throw, and it just doesn’t work out. And that’s how this weekend was.”

Bynum thinks they will be able to put last weekend’s games behind them, though, saying she got the results she was looking for from her pitcher in Wednesday’s practice.

“I challenged them again with the two pitches that they worked on, and our pitchers succeeded 100 percent,” she said. “I think they’re getting a handle on what we expect from them.

“You can’t take a pitch off, and every pitch matters, whether it’s in practice or a game.”

Junior infielder Ciara Garcia said even though the offense was able to put up runs last weekend, the defense was challenged in a similar fashion to the way pitchers were.

“Basically, it was pressure situations where you had to field so many balls, and if you didn’t, you would have to run or do crunches,” she said. “It makes you be aggressive and go hard at the ball.”

As the Lady Toppers return home to face conference opponent Troy this weekend, Garcia and the rest of the team feel they’ll be able to eliminate some of the mistakes they worked to correct in practice.

“We’re hungry,” she said. “We’re hungry for the sweep, and we’re going to be at home, so we’re excited about that. We’re just pumped, and we’re going to fight for it all.”