SOFTBALL: Back In The Hunt

Amber North

While students were preparing to spend their Easter weekend eating dinner with family, the Lady Topper softball team was busy collecting wins.

Western (24-24, 4-4 Sun Belt) returned to its home field to take on New Mexico State (8-47, 1-11 Sun Belt) on Friday and Saturday, winning three of the four games scheduled.

In Friday’s doubleheader, the Lady Toppers came poised to dominate in the first game.

Western scored five runs in the third inning alone. It scored two runs off Aggie defensive errors and three more on three hits, including junior outfielder Riley Garcia’s first triple of the season.

Junior catcher Samantha Hansen paced the offensive attack in the bottom of the fifth with a two-out single. Sophomore outfielder Renita Pennington posted her career-high second RBI of the game as she drove in Hansen.

Western would go on to win the game in five innings with a score of 8-0, with junior pitcher Allison Silver’s (12-11) second shutout of the season.

“We did everything we could do in our 8-0 shutout game,” head coach Leslie Phelan said.

But Western’s batteries ran low in the second game, which Western lost 6-2.

Aggie shortstop Amanda Carver, who had a season total of only five RBIs, smacked a grand slam in the top of the third to put them in an early 4-0 lead.

Western fought back in order to avoid a shutout when freshman pitcher Natasha Sevco slugged her second two-run double of the day, earning the two runs of the game.

“I was extremely disappointed that we didn’t hit the ball,” Phelan said. “We should’ve had more than five hits.”

But Phelan wasn’t disappointed when her squad returned to its all-star performance level Saturday.

Hansen’s three-run double, her third of six RBIs for the day, helped lift the Hilltoppers to a 7-2 victory in the first game.

“(Hansen) hit very well on Saturday and had some key clutch hitting, which was definitely what we needed,” Phelan said.

Silver retired the final 13 batters she faced, earning her third straight win and improving to 13-11 on the season.

After a 2-0 lead in the first game of the day, New Mexico State evened the game in the top of the third.

But the Aggies’ defense deteriorated later in the inning when it committed two errors and allowed three more runs, making the score 5-2.

Floyd’s solo shot, her ninth of the season, finalized the Hilltoppers’ victory.

Western’s flame remained ignited as they scored a season- high 15 runs in the second game.

“I think the key is that we did get the clutch hit,” Phelan said. “We got runners on, put pressure on, which demoralizes the team, and that’s definitely what we did.”

The spotlight was on senior rightfielder Kristalyn Smith as she had three RBIs to become Western’s all-time RBI leader at 83. She surpassed former Hilltopper Sara Alan?s and teammate Jessie Richardson, who both had 81.

“Records are made to be broken, and it’s not really a high number, so it won’t last very long,” Smith said, laughing. “But it is a neat accomplishment, and I’m kind of proud of myself.”

Western will travel to Nashville today at 2 p.m. to face Belmont (8-32-1). Despite the Bruins’ mediocre record, the Hilltoppers hopes to carry on their top-notch performance from last weekend.

“We can beat any team when we hit like we did (Saturday),” Hansen said.

Reach Amber North at [email protected]