SOFTBALL: Comfort level leading to wins

Wes Watt

Last March, Western’s softball team was struggling to stay above .500. Injuries plagued one of the most talented teams in Western’s history.

But that was last March.

The miserable days of last spring have been put into the distant memory of the Lady Toppers. Along with the .500 record.

With five victories over the break, Western improved to 21-8 en route to becoming the fastest team in Western’s history to reach 20 wins.

Because of the injuries, players spent most of their time last season juggling around the diamond, instead of playing the position most suited to them.

But this year everyone is in their comfort zone.

Senior pitcher Allison Silver said that because everybody is able to play the position they are comfortable with, it helped develop team unity.

“We have just been playing really well together,” Silver said. “Not having to juggle people around.”

Coach Leslie Phelan said the stability has sparked a fire in the defense, which in turn backs up veteran pitching. This gives Western the ability to avenge the antics of last season and play to its complete potential.

Silver (11-4) and sophomore Adrienne Lathrop have played the biggest part in a pitching roster that has shut out 9 of the 29 teams it has faced, including Lathrop’s no-hitter earlier this year.

But Silver is quick to point out that pitching cannot do it alone. She said pitching is just a part of the formula to be a successful team.

The defensive players have backed up the pitcher’s performance to make for a deadly combination against opponents’ hitters.

Junior second baseman Shelly Floyd and sophomore shortstop Baily Rolfs, who are roommates, have used their chemistry to create an iron curtain to keep balls trapped within the infield.

“We have two of the best infielders in the conference,” Phelan said.

Rolfs said the team chemistry is mixed well, which causes the team to have confidence in all aspects of the game.

“On any given day, somebody is stepping up,” Rolfs said. “All of the players contribute. It’s the whole team.”

The offense has had trouble finding consistency at times during the season, but the Lady Toppers’ bats seemed to come alive during the first two weekends in March.

In nine games, Western crushed the ball and the scoreboard to the tune of 47 runs and 76 hits. But over the break, the team struggled against two top-30 opponents in Georgia Tech and Notre Dame.

But Phelan said it was not just good opponents that kept her team from winning.

“We had a lack in mental toughness,” Phelan said. “We just need to correct it.”

Western will take on the Purple Aces from Evansville at 4 p.m. tonight at Nick Denes Field in a doubleheader.

Reach Wes Watt at [email protected]