As conference play creeps closer for Northwest softball, the Bearcats find themselves at an experience disadvantage heading into the MIAA schedule.
Northwest has fallen victim to yet another cancellation as the Missouri Southern Tournament in Joplin, originally scheduled for March 1-3, has canceled the last two days of its tournament. The elimination of Saturday and Sunday’s events has nullified four potential games for the Bearcats.
Coach Ryan Anderson said the weather cancellations have made it hard for him to know what his team needs to focus on.
“It’s hard to know what to work on and what to do because right now we are just sitting in a hole,” Anderson said. “Yeah, we have a place to practice, but mentally, athletically and game wise, we are behind.”
Junior infielder Erin Keeney said not having the experience some of the other teams the Bearcats will see later have has hindered their growth.
“It’s very frustrating,” Keeney said. “There are some teams in the MIAA that have almost 20 games, and we only have six, so I’d say we have a disadvantage with games. It’s definitely been very frustrating.”
Northwest has played the least amount of total games of any team in the MIAA. Northeastern State has played 17, most in the MIAA, while the average games played between all schools is 10.
“Obviously playing fewer games is a disadvantage, but I think also, going into the game, it’s just the mental aspect of it,” Keeney said about the weather-tortured tournaments. “Yeah, we’ve had fewer games, but I think to go in and just saying, ‘Yo, let’s get this, we got this.’ We can’t control the canceled games, so let’s just go and get to work.”
With at most only eight games under its belt, Northwest will travel to Edmond, Oklahoma, to take on Central Oklahoma to open up MIAA play March 9. Meanwhile, the Bronchos have played 15 games before the conference schedule.
“You hope you have enough upperclassmen that things fall into place as you start playing conference,” Anderson said. “We were supposed to have 20 games going into the first conference game. Hopefully, by then, you kind of have a rhythm of figuring things out position wise, and we just have no chance.”
Led by four seniors and seven juniors, the Bearcats are an upperclassmen-heavy team with experience in MIAA play.
Junior infielder Kaitlyn Weiss leads Northwest batting average (.500), hits (10), home runs (3), RBIs (8), slugging percentage (1.100) and on-base percentage (.565).
With no sign of Maryville thawing out any time soon, Anderson said he could recall winters that were hard on the ‘Cats practice time, but none as bad as this year.
“We’ve had years where we’ve had more snow, but we’ve had 50-degree days to melt it off,” Anderson said. “This extended period of cold has given us no hope. We just don’t have the hope (of getting outside) … I don’t know how long we are looking before we can actually get on the field.”