Lady Tops learn lessons during Gaucho Classic

Nick Bratcher

WKU softball entered last weekend inexperienced and lacking leadership.

But the Lady Toppers took some baby steps to gain both at the Gaucho Classic in Santa Barbara, Calif.

WKU (3-2) split its first day of action on Friday, losing to UC Santa Barbara, 3-2, then beating Seattle 4-0 as sophomore pitcher Mallorie Sulaski tossed a no-hitter.

Sulaski said the effort felt just like any other day at the ballpark and credited her defense for the achievement.

“It was just a normal day,” she said. “I didn’t even know about it until the last inning, but I felt confident out there and thought I pitched well. I definitely had a lot of support behind me, though, with my defense.

“They made a lot of great plays behind me, and I don’t think I would have that no-hitter without them.”

WKU split again on Saturday, losing a second bout to UCSB, 1-0, and garnering another win against Seattle, 7-1.

The Lady Toppers ended the weekend on a high note Sunday as they picked up a 5-0 win over Wichita State.

Head Coach Tyra Perry said the team grew up a lot during the weekend, experiencing pressure situations that a scrimmage or practice can’t produce.

“We needed to log experience,” she said. “Just having the opportunity to play other teams, having the pressure of the bases loaded, or having to get the big out is very important.

“The more we get to do those things, the better we’re going to get in those scenarios, and the more games we’re going to win.”

Sophomore Ciara Garcia, who led the team this weekend with a .444 batting average, said the team struggled to assert itself early in each of its losses.

“In our losses we needed to be more aggressive, and as Coach said, ‘We need to be more of the intimidators — not the intimidated,’” Garcia said. “We need to come out early and not wait until the fifth inning to start hitting.”

Garcia also noticed some leadership developing this weekend for the youthful squad.

“I see people chiming in and saying, ‘Keep going hard and keep working,’” she said. “I love seeing people get fired up because they want to play hard and get ahead and keep pushing.

“I see leadership from everybody.”

The Lady Toppers will play their home opener at the WKU Softball Complex on Feb. 23 against Eastern Kentucky in a doubleheader at 1 and 3 p.m.

Perry said she will be using the long pause in action to work on the small things she noticed in California that need improvement.

“We have this weekend off,” she said. “So we’re going to work on the little things that we saw here in our five games in Santa Barbara and hopefully become a little more solid in all aspects of the game.”