At this weekend’s two-day Big Red blast, it was a tale of two teams for Western.
Will the real Lady Toppers please stand up?
They did on Sunday.
Sunday, for most, is the day of rest. But for Western, it’s the day to go to work.
The Hilltoppers are 4-1 on Sundays this year. In the two games versus Western Illinois and Indiana State, the Lady Toppers out-scored their opponents 14-1 and tallied two wins.
“What was the difference? Everything,” head coach Leslie Phelan said, following Sunday’s win. “We were all pretty disgusted with how we played yesterday. Yesterday was about as low as we could feel, from the coaching staff to the players, and I think we had had enough.”
The difference was timely hitting, solid defense and outstanding pitching. Phelan tinkered with the defense by moving Shelly Floyd, who normally plays second, to third and starting freshman Jennifer Ballance at second and freshman Samantha Young as catcher.
“You just think about all the practice you put in, and when you get in there, you just have to do your best,” Young said.
She did exactly that. Young played well, going 3 for 4 with two walks. She played golden glove defense, including throwing a runner out at second and diving to catch a foul ball.
The defense committed zero errors in the two games and stranded only 11 runners.
“We looked like two totally different teams,”senior Kristalyn Smith said. “We made the other teams make the errors and not us.
“We had solid defense, solid pitching and hit well, and that’s what you want to do.”
Game one on Sunday saw junior Allison Silver pitch a complete game, allowing only one run and going 2-2 at the plate with a two run double. Sophomore Dana Rey got Western going in the top of the third with a base-clearing double to put Western ahead for good, 3-1. The Toppers added four more in the top of the fifth, capped off by Young’s first collegiate hit, a two-run single.
The Hilltoppers capitalized on what is normally their Achilles heel, six Sycamore errors, which accounted for three unearned runs. In the bottom of the first, junior Riley Garcia picked up a single that extended her hitting streak to 10 games.
Freshman Adrienne Lathrop (5-2) started game two and threw a complete game, two-hit shutout as Western blanked Indiana State 5-0. Lathrop closed out the game by retiring the last 11 batters she faced. Both Garcia and Silver were selected to the all-tournament team.
In game one Saturday against Eastern Illinois, Western led 3-2 after two innings, thanks to Floyd’s fifth homer of the season.
Floyd is one home run shy of the school record held by teammate Jessie Richardson, who is still sidelined with a right wrist injury. Silver allowed only one run in five innings of relief of freshman Natasha Sevco, but the Hilltoppers left seven on base and fell to Eastern Illinois 5-4.
In the second game Saturday against East Tennessee State, errors once again played a factor in a Western loss as the Toppers gave the Bucs four unearned runs in the first two innings. Western also stranded 10 runners on base and lost 6-2.
Lathrop was the lone bright side for the Toppers, allowing just two earned runs in six innings and striking out a career high seven hitters.
Western gets back to action next Friday as they take on Detroit in the Hilltopper Spring Classic at the Western Softball complex. Play begins at 4 p.m. with a game against Belmont to follow at 6 p.m.