Albright jumps into starting role for Lady Tops

Freshman pitcher Brittanie Albright throws a pitch during the Lady Toppers’ home game against Louisiana-Monroe last Saturday. Albright won two games in the three-game series.

Nick Bratcher

Fans might want to keep all hands and feet away from the Lady Toppers after last weekend’s sweep of Louisiana-Monroe in a three-game series.

Freshman pitcher Brittanie Albright (3-1) said she’s added some bite to WKU’s game with her underdog approach, earning two wins last weekend after starting just three games previously.

“I think freshmen are little pups that bite you at first,” she said. “We show our stuff the most. It makes me want to work harder.”

Entering last weekend’s series against Louisiana-Monroe, WKU (26-22, 7-11 Sun Belt Conference) had won six of its last 17 games and had fallen to ninth place in the Sun Belt Conference, in danger of missing the eight-team postseason tournament.

Now the Lady Toppers sit in seventh place after sweeping ULM.

Head Coach Tyra Perry said Albright has played a major role in WKU’s recent success.

“We’re at a point where we have to play the kids that want to be on the field,” she said. “Albright has proven that she’s one of them.”

Albright said Perry’s confidence in her as a starting pitcher has served as extra motivation to perform in tough situations.

“I’m finally getting over the hill and cruising now,” she said. “I just have to work harder — extra compared to everybody else. I’ve had to mentally train to be the best.”

This weekend the Lady Toppers hit the road to take on Louisiana-Lafayette, the first-place team in the Sun Belt Conference, in a three-game series, starting with a doubleheader on Saturday at 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. and wrapping up on Sunday at noon.

Junior third baseman Amanda Walden said Albright’s inclusion in the pitching staff gives the team a special edge with in-conference play.

“It’s great that we found another pitcher,” she said. “The two-pitcher rotation works for a while, and then everyone gets used to your pitchers. Now that Albright is in the rotation, they haven’t seen her.

“That’s going to be great to put a new pitcher on the mound, and they won’t know how to hit her. It’s an asset for us.”

The Lady Toppers’ pitching rotation previously consisted of sophomores Mallorie Sulaski and Kim Wagner.

Perry said Sulaski remains the team’s No. 1 starting pitcher, but that Albright grabbed the team’s No. 2 spot after displaying a strong sense of “responsibility, potential and heart.”

“She doesn’t have a whole lot extra going on in her head,” she said. “She knows how to clear her mind and focus on her job.”

Walden said the switch was “a shock for a little bit,” but that Albright deserved the chance after performing well over a series of practices.

“It was only a matter of time before she got the start, and she proved herself,” Walden said. “I look forward to seeing her start more games now.”

Though Albright earned two wins last weekend, she struggled in her second start, yielding four runs on four hits in just two innings of work. After Albright loaded the bases with no outs, Sulaski came in and conserved WKU’s lead to earn Albright the win.

Perry said that she remains confident in Albright’s abilities and that those situations will decrease with time.

“She still has a lot of room to grow,” she said. “People have to give her that opportunity to grow and mature. She’s going to be a very strong pitcher for us now and in the future.”