Lady Tops win first Sun Belt series of season

WKU freshman Megan Johnson warms up in the on-deck circle before her turn at bat during Sunday afternoon’s game against North Texas. WKU lost 11-7 but won the first two games of the series.

Nick Bratcher

The Lady Toppers entered this weekend with the opportunity to grab some much-needed wins in the Sun Belt Conference as they took on North Texas in a three-game series.

WKU (20-16, 3-6 Sun Belt Conference) won both games of its doubleheader Saturday by a margin of 5-3 in the first game and 2-1 in the second.

The Lady Toppers then fell Sunday to North Texas, 11-7, in the final game of the series.

Sixty degree weather coupled with a strong wind to right field all weekend made the WKU Softball Complex a hitter’s dream, but also provided a bit of a problem for the Lady Topper outfield.

Head Coach Tyra Perry said she thought the Lady Toppers were hitting well, but the team will be working on defense this week after a couple of errors Saturday nearly cost them the first win.

“We hit the ball very well, but defensively we’ve got to clean it up a little bit,” she said. “We could have made some plays to keep Sunday’s game a little closer and make Saturday’s wins a little easier, but we’re going to work on that.”

WKU rebounded from its two losses at Lipscomb earlier last week to win the conference series.

After the Lipscomb losses, Perry said the Lady Toppers had “one pitcher doing well and the other three struggling” entering the weekend.

Sophomore Kim Wagner said it was good to take a small step in getting the pitching staff back on track.

She broke a four-game losing streak on the mound Saturday and grabbed her first Sun Belt Conference win of the season.

North Texas loaded the bases in both the sixth and seventh innings but failed to plate a single runner thanks to Wagner’s command.

“It sucks when you’re struggling,” Wagner said. “When you get the chance to prove to your teammates that you can do it, it feels really good to let them know they can still count on you.”

The Lady Toppers play again Tuesday in a home doubleheader at 4 and 6 p.m. against Samford.

Perry said Wagner’s performance holds the key to success for WKU.

“We need her,” she said. “If we’re going to have a good season, she will be a big part of that. I think it was huge to see that she could come out and win a conference game.”

Three teams have six or more wins in the Sun Belt Conference as of Sunday, and WKU sits in sixth place overall.

Sophomore Ciara Garcia said winning the series meant a lot to keeping the Lady Toppers afloat in the conference.

“To win a series gives our team momentum and confidence,” she said. “We know that each win now is important for the conference tournament.”

Perry also acknowledged the weekend’s importance. She said an opposite outcome this weekend would have left WKU facing a steep climb to keep up in the Sun Belt.

“If things go the other way, then we’re in a deep hole,” she said. “So to get two wins — and the way they got those two — was very exciting.”