Junior Rachel Smith Lead the Team in Strikeouts Last Season With 108

Junior Rachel Smith was a prominent part of the Bearcat defense in 2018 earning MIAA Second Team selection and also leading the team with 108 strikeouts in the season.

As the spring season supposedly inches closer, the Northwest softball team started its season in Bentonville, Arkansas, Feb. 9.

The Bearcats (1-1) beat Midwestern State 6-3 in the first game of the season. Sophomore Kaitlyn Weis went 3-for-3 with a two-run home run against the Mustangs. Along with Weis, senior Jaedra Moses was 1-for-3 with a walk and scored three of Northwest’s six runs.

Coach Ryan Anderson explained even though his team put up six runs on the scoreboard, his players’ plate appearances left more to be desired.

“Overall, we didn’t have great at-bats,” Anderson said. “We swung at some bad pitches and couldn't identify the strike zone, but we swung aggressively. That was the whole point going into the second game of what we wanted to do was focus on having good at-bats, find our strike zone and make the pitchers pitch to us.”

Senior Kiana Baderdeen led the Bearcats at the plate in the opening game of the season going 2-for-4 with three RBI. Baderdeen said it was good to see the offensive fire-power in motion.

“It felt really good, definitely, in the first game out, knowing our team is capable of that,” Baderdeen said. “We’ve been practicing, but seeing it in action was really nice.”

In the second game of the tournament, Northwest fell to Arkansas-Monticello 2-0. The Bearcats had seven hits but couldn’t push across a run.

Sophomore Regan Thompson struck out five batters in five innings pitched. Anderson said Thompson’s performance should have been enough to get a win.

“Regan threw well, we just didn’t hit,” Anderson said. “We put the ball in play constantly, but I think we had one strikeout, maybe two, but we put the ball in play every time. We just couldn’t get it out of the infield.”

Anderson acknowledged that his team should have beat the Blossoms, citing the lack of run production behind good pitching.

With the first two games behind the Bearcats, Baderdeen said the attitude coming back from Arkansas is constructive.

“It’s a positive outlook because of the first game,” Baderdeen said. “Just improving on the things we messed up on (is the message). It is the first weekend out, so we did have nerves and newcomers.”

With impending weather looming, the Arkansas-Monticello Tournament has been canceled. Anderson said these games would’ve given his team to get live reps they can’t get here.

“It gives us live at-bats of seeing opponents, and we get out and play,” Anderson said. “We’re not going to get out here in a long time, and our games are a chance for us to get out and play.”

While Northwest waits for a place and a team to play, practice still continues. This year, all Bearcats have the luxury of using Hughes Fieldhouse for indoor practices.

Baderdeen explained the indoor complex has helped lengthen practices because there is more the team can do.

“It’s a big difference because last year being in that cage, it’s so small, our practices would be short because there’s not much you can do,” Baderdeen said. “Getting out here, you can take real fielding and hitting to see where you’re going with the ball.”

With Maryville’s weather patterns not set to clear up anytime soon, Anderson said while it’s hard to go back inside, it’s nice to have the new facility.

“It helps to have the fieldhouse,” Anderson said. “It's not as depressing as having to practice in Lamkin. At least we can come in and have some space to hit balls, but once you get outside and play, you don’t want to come back in.”

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