Softball looks to keep winning 'one game at a time'
Once again, the Central Michigan softball team wasn't quite perfect this past week, going 3-1 over the four games it competed in.
However, neither was Ball State (27-20 overall, 11-4 Mid-American Conference). CMU (26-12, 11-4) is still tied for first place in the MAC West Division.
Head coach Margo Jonker said the teams focus isn't that far ahead yet.
“We just need to continue to focus on ourselves and not the opponent,” Jonker said. “We have been doing a good job putting swings on the ball lately, and we’ve played good defense. If we keep up those two things every game, we will get where we want to be.”
The Chippewas started this past week by completing the season-series sweep of their rival Western Michigan on Wednesday at Margo Jonker stadium, defeating the Broncos 10-2 in five innings.
Knapp grabbed the win, which moved CMU into a first place tie with Ball State, going five innings and allowing two earned runs on five hits and one walk. She struck out eight batters.
CMU exploded for six runs in the fifth inning to help get to a double-digit scoring day. It was the Chippewas first three hitters (junior left fielder Lacy Tolfree, sophomore center fielder Allison Curtis, and junior catcher Maison Kalina) doing most of the damage with the bats.
Tolfree went 3-for-4 in the lead-off slot, getting one run batted in and scoring two of her own. Curtis went a perfect 4-for-4 at the dish, knocking in and scoring two runs. Then Kalina went 1-for-3 with two RBI and one run scored.
Next up was a road trip to Toledo, Ohio to take on the Rockets for a three-game weekend series where the Chippewas’ won two of the three contests.
The first game on Friday versus the Rockets was the opposite of the team’s previous game against WMU earlier that week, going to nine innings before CMU was finally able to push across a run.
Lacy Tolfree hit a single and went on to steal second base, setting up the perfect opportunity for Curtis, and she nailed a double in the left field gap to score Tolfree, eventually being the game winning run in CMU’s 1-0 victory.
Toledo’s sophomore pitcher Heather Webb went eight innings before CMU could even get a hit, and it still wasn't enough to beat Knapp. Knapp went the complete game, tossing a shutout while only allowing four hits and she struck out eight hitters.
“I was very proud of Knapp and the way she pitched throughout the entire afternoon, and our defense for making the plays behind her,” Jonker said. “However, I was disappointed with how the offense preformed today, we have to be better than that. Luckily, one big hit was enough to win the game today.”
To finish the series on Saturday, Knapp (16-7) wasn't as successful in the first game of the double-header on Saturday.
The St. Joseph native allowed an unusual eight hits and four runs while only striking out four batters on the afternoon, as the Chippewas fell to Toledo by a final score of 4-2.
Jonker said that the fatigue from pitching the nine innings just one day before didn't affect her game.
"I think it was just an off day for her," Jonker said.
Junior Hanna Warren (8-5) got the call to hurl from the circle in the finale of the series, and she pitched a complete seven innings allowing four runs on eight hits while striking out two to get the win, in a 6-4 final.
The real hero of the day was junior Sydney Heath who bombed a homer in the top of the seventh inning to eventually be the game winning runs.
What’s up Next?
The Chippewas will have some out-of-conference competition to start this week, playing Valparaiso in a double-header on Tuesday starting at 3 p.m.
The Crusaders come in at 22-13 overall and are riding a three-game winning streak.
Junior pitcher Mackenze Grossman leads the team in pitching, coming into this week with a 2.93 earned run average and a 15-7 overall record. The 5-foot-10 pitcher has 85 strikeouts this season.
On offense, the Crusaders are led by senior and sophomore infielders Sam Stewart and Carly Trepanier, who both have a .388 batting average and have started all 35 games they've played in.
The Chippewas will close out the week back in Mount Pleasant to take on Northern Illinois in one of their final three conference series of the season. The first game is Friday at 3 p.m., and then is closed out with a double-header on Saturday with the first pitch scheduled for 1 p.m.
The Huskies are led in the circle sophomore pitcher Alex Frenz who has a 3.08 ERA and is 11-6 on the year. Junior pitcher Emma Ray leads the squad in ERA sitting at a solid 2.62 this season.
Senior Kayti Grable leads the team with the bat, starting all 37 games she’s played in this season while posting a .400 batting average. She has 46 hits, 29 RBI, 16 runs scored, and seven deep balls.
Jonker said that the teams recent winning has been in part of the entire team stepping up when it needs to.
“The competition has been really intense, and we found a way to win most of those games,” Jonker said. “Im really proud of the players for coming through, and it’s been different people, which is great.
“Knapp had an off day, and then Hanna (Warren) had a great day. Knapp has great days most of the time, but when she doesn't we have other people who can pick her up.”
The Chippewas have won seven of their last nine games leading up to this week.