SOFTBALL: Good qualities demonstrated

Wes Watt

The Lady Topper softball team is getting two things from its defense this season that it may not have gotten in previous years: consistency and confidence.

The two words go together like a hand in a glove. Without consistency, it’s hard to gain confidence, but without confidence, it’s hard to gain consistency.

Western will bring its confident and consistent defense into the Hilltopper Spring Classic for its first home appearance of the season.

The Lady Toppers will open the tournament with two games on Friday, beginning at 6 p.m. against Southeast Missouri State, followed by Illinois State.

The Lady Toppers’ defense is coming off a confidence-building game against No. 19 Iowa. It held Iowa to a scoreless tie through four innings before finally giving up a run to break the tie. The Hawkeyes had 10 hits but were only allowed three total runs.

“That’s definitely one of the highlights of this year so far,” coach Leslie Phelan said. “This year we have played such solid defense. I am extremely pleased with how well we are playing defensively.”

There will be at least one change in the defensive lineup this weekend. Junior third baseman Dana Rey will miss at least this weekend’s tournament because of an ankle injury that took place during the Toledo game last Sunday.

“It’s disappointing,” Rey said. “But I have strong faith in our team.”

Stepping in her place will be sophomore Natasha Sevco and freshman Lindsay Gatti. The two will both receive playing time at the third base position.

Consistency is the one thing Phelan wants to improve on the offensive end. The Lady Toppers have had no problem hitting the average pitcher. The Toledo Rockets can vouch for the hitting ability of Western.

In the two games against the Rockets, Western threw up a combined 18 points, three home runs and 17 RBIs. Phelan said the team now needs to work on hitting the top notch pitchers like Hawkeyes pitcher Ali Arnold.

Arnold only gave up two hits to the Lady Toppers in Iowa’s 3-0 shutout. Phelan said the team needs to work on some adjustments to make them tougher to pitch against.

Junior outfielder Renita Pennington has confidence the offense will get better as they face better pitchers throughout the year.

“I feel like our offense maybe in the beginning might struggle,” Pennington said. “But I have confidence we can adjust.”

Reach Wes Watt at [email protected]