Lady Tops break through with first conference win

Freshman outfielder Tiffany Gooch cheers on a teammate during the Lady Toppers’ Sunday afternoon doubleheader against Florida Atlantic. WKU lost the first game of the day but rallied to win the second game, 6-3.

Cole Claybourn

Head Coach Tyra Perry said the Lady Toppers got the monkey off their back on Sunday, winning their first conference game.

Now Perry said she hopes they can find a way to “bury” that monkey.

WKU (18-13, 1-5 Sun Belt Conference) dropped the first two games of its home series against Florida Atlantic this weekend before winning 6-3 in the series finale on Sunday.

Perry said up until their win on Sunday, the team was simply beating itself.

“We’ve been making a lot of errors and not getting timely hits,” she said Sunday. “This game we were able to do that.”

The Lady Toppers committed seven combined errors in the games against FAU. And despite out-hitting FAU 7-2 on Saturday, they were unable to score on several occasions with runners on base.

Perry said it was the errors and other mental mistakes—plus tired pitching—that plagued them early on in conference play.

“Our pitching was starting to break down just a bit,” she said. “We were starting to get mental. I think we still have some things to work on out there.”

WKU started Sun Belt play with a series at South Alabama two weekends ago and was swept in three games.

Perry said the early conference losses came as a bit of a shock to a team that entered league play with 17 wins — six more than last year at the same time.

But with a win over No. 6 Michigan and an eight-game winning streak already under their belts this season, Perry said the message to the players was to not get down on themselves.

“We generally spoke a lot about being able to refocus,” she said. “One of the other points that was pretty obvious in the stats is that we weren’t closing the door with two outs. But the biggest thing we talked about was staying together as a team.”

Perry said even though Saturday’s game ended in a loss, she was able to see that team chemistry take shape as they worked past their problems. 

After allowing three unearned runs in the first inning on Saturday, sophomore starting pitcher Mallorie Sulaski responded by not allowing FAU to score any more runs the rest of the game.

In the first game of Sunday’s doubleheader, freshman Brittanie Albright pitched 4 and 2/3 scoreless innings in relief after sophomore starter Kim Wagner allowed seven runs in 2 and 1/3 innings.

The errors later plagued WKU again in its game-two win, but it cashed in on 12 hits and took advantage of a complete game win by Sulaski.

“As long as those guys keep us in games, our hitting usually gives us a chance to win,” Perry said.

Sulaski said she hopes the Lady Toppers can use Sunday’s win as a launching pad for another long winning streak.

They’ll have to do it by first playing a non-conference doubleheader against Lipscomb tonight before a home series against conference opponent North Texas this weekend.

Sulaski said that presents a unique situation for the team, and one they plan to take full advantage of.

“We can just go out there and fix some things that we saw this weekend,” she said. “We’ll get them sound and ready for this weekend and go back into our conference strong.”

Freshman Amanda Thomas said she thinks the team is back on track after Sunday’s win.

“I think we’re back in our groove,” she said. “We’re going to be winning a lot more games after this. We just needed that one win to get us started.”

Perry said the key for the Lady Toppers now is to just stop creating their own obstacles.

“We just need to stay out of our own way,” she said.