Northwest softball will embark on a 395-mile journey to Edmond, Oklahoma, to take on Central Oklahoma to open up a fresh slate of conference games.
The Bearcats (3-5) are set to take on the Bronchos (16-1) March 7-8 at the all-turf Broncho Softball Stadium. Coach Ryan Anderson said with the cancellations and distractions of the non-conference schedule, his team feels a little different than normal.
“(We feel) a little lost,” Anderson said. “We’ve had 12 games canceled, and that’s 12 learning curves going into the first week of conference. Central Oklahoma has 18 games in right now—we have eight.”
Northwest is faced with a tough task out of the gates as Central Oklahoma sits atop the MIAA standings before conference play. Not only that, the Bronchos have played the most total games (17) in the conference while the ‘Cats have played the second least (8).
With such a large experience gap this year, junior infielder Kaitlyn Weis said the team needs to focus on what it can control in this first series and not try to do too much.
“We’re just making sure we stay focused and stay within ourselves,” Weis said. “We obviously don’t want them to get in our minds. We’re just staying on top of what we need to do and control what we can control.”
A fresh slate a game sits ahead of Northwest this year, as every team will start conference play 0-0. Anderson said he is taking that attitude into the first games in Edmond.
“It’s a new season,” Anderson said. “We have the early part of the season to get ready for conference, to see how people fit in situations and those types of things, and we missed a lot of that. So now we have to speed up the learning curve. Hopefully, we are ready to go.”
The Bearcats were fortunate enough to play two games March 1 in Joplin, as Days 2 and 3 of the tournament—like the majority of the others Northwest has participated in—were canceled due to weather.
In its first action in 12 days, Northwest faced a heavy-hitting Cameron team. The ‘Cats were able to jump out to a quick 2-0 lead in the first, but the Aggies surged to take the lead in the fourth. Northwest was able to tie the game going into the sixth inning, but Cameron scored six in the final inning and took the win 9-3.
This marks the fourth time the Bearcats have allowed a comeback win in the sixth inning or later. Anderson said he wasn’t sure what happens to his team in the late innings.
“Who knows?” Anderson said. “(Cameron) is a team who has played 17 games. We actually had to come back to tie it. We fought back and tied it in the sixth but they were a good hitting team.”
Weis went 1-for-2 against the Aggies, adding two runs and two RBIs to her already hot start for Northwest. She explained she thinks the reason these late-game collapses happen is because of complacency.
“I think we settle a little bit,” Weis said. “Once we get them down, we’ve got to keep them down and keep that positive energy up. Sometimes you just get comfortable with where you’re at, and there are seven innings, so anything can happen in that seven innings.”
The Bearcats committed four errors in the game against Cameron, two coming in the final two innings, a mark that Anderson showed displeasure with.
“We did make some mistakes, especially in the seventh inning,” Anderson said. “We had two errors that inning that hurt us, you know, we helped them out.”
With cancellations littering Northwest’s schedule, errors and mistakes can be expected as its only taken the field for eight games. Weis said the errors are a part of the game, and they have to move on and help each other.
“There’s going to be errors and mistakes that happen,” Weis said. “We just have to make sure we fight through it and pick each other up.”
Game 2 presented a different storyline for the ‘Cats as they hung 13 runs on the board against Rockhurst, beating the Hawks 13-4 in their final game in Joplin.
Senior outfielder Jaedra Moses went 3-for-3 at the dish, driving in two runs and scoring three of her own. While sophomore pitcher Regan Thompson went the distance, striking out six batters while allowing just four runs. Weis explained it was nice to see her club produce runs like she knew they could.
“It was very refreshing,” Weis said. “We were very fresh, so that was pretty good. Just getting back and getting comfortable with ourselves and staying within ourselves is pretty important when you have a big break.”