Lady Toppers start season Friday in South Carolina

Hasani Grayson

Practicing various in-game situations was a critical part of WKU’s inter-squad scrimmages this week.

With the roster split in half for the scrimmage, the coaching staff was looking to test their players by changing the score, number of outs and pitch counts. 

The different in-game scenarios created tests for players at all positions leading up to the Lady Toppers’ season opener against Cleveland State at 9 a.m. Friday in Columbia, S.C., at the Palmetto Classic.

WKU will also face Winthrop (9 a.m. Saturday), South Carolina (11:30 a.m. Saturday) and Tennessee State (9 a.m. Sunday).

Sophomore outfielder Kelsie Mattox, who batted .331 last year with eight homeruns and 36 RBIs, said she doesn’t know a whole lot about the teams the Lady Toppers are facing, but she is confident WKU will be prepared. 

“I know we’ll get a great scouting report from our coaches,” she said. “But we’re pretty much doing the same approach we had last year: being aggressive, and when we do get in the hole, continuing to trust ourselves and our swings.” 

Sophomore pitcher Emily Rousseau proved to be one of the Lady Toppers’ standouts during the team scrimmage.

Rousseau, a transfer from Northwest Florida State, recently recovered from a knee injury that limited her ability to practice. 

She pitched all seven innings, giving up two home runs and some other hard hit balls, but said she felt comfortable while pitching.

 “Coming in after not playing for six months was a little tough,” Rousseau said. “… Pretty much everything was going where I wanted it to go, and it felt like my spin was on point.”

Mattox and junior catcher Karavin Dew also stole bases during the scrimmage, something Head Coach Tyra Perry said WKU will do more of this year. 

In 59 games last season, WKU was successful on 57 of 77 stolen base attempts.

“We’re going to run a lot,” she said. “We’re going to try to push the envelope and take a little more risk early on to see what we can do.” 

Perry said she was especially excited by the speed of sophomore infielder Olivia Watkins.

“Olivia Watkins is our fastest kid on our team,” Perry said. “She has true speed. So we’re hoping to see her really blossom and steal a lot of bases for us this year.” 

Watkins stole seven bases on eight attempts last season. 

Though the first set of games includes the Saturday doubleheader, Mattox said the team will be too excited for the start of the season to get fatigued. 

“We train our bodies and our minds to get ready for a 56-game season,” she said. “Early in the season we’re ready to play, so we might be on adrenaline.”