Northwest softball dropped two games against conference rival Central Missouri April 6 at the Bearcat Softball Field in Maryville.
The Bearcats (9-11) came into the doubleheader 11th in the MIAA standings, looking to push the record over the .500 mark after a two-game sweep of Emporia State April 2. Standing in the way were the Central Missouri Jennies (19-9), who came into the games fifth in the MIAA standings.
Northwest opened the first game of the afternoon with a bang, as sophomore Olivia Daugherty blasted a two-run home run over the left-field fence to give the Bearcats a 2-0 lead in the first inning.
The Jennies answered back in the top of the second inning with a two-run home run of their own off the bat of sophomore Jessica Sader to tie it at 2. Central took the lead later in the second with junior Bailey Fowler’s RBI double to give the Jennies a 3-2 lead.
After the loud offense of the first two innings, the game quickly went quiet, and the offenses struggled to get anything going. Northwest tallied some sporadic hits, but offensive inconsistency continued to hurt the Bearcats.
“I just wish we could put hits consecutively together,” Northwest coach Ryan Anderson said. “I mean, last Friday when we played, we found a way to do it, and we did it, and today we just couldn’t.”
The first game of the afternoon remained at 3-2 until the Jennies added another run in the top of the fifth inning, a solo home run off the bat of sophomore Ashlyn Cook. The Jennies added to their lead in the top of the seventh with sophomore Makenzie McAtee’s solo home run to give Central 5-2 lead heading into the bottom of the seventh.
Northwest made a late push in the seventh, as sophomore Grace Ruehle singled into left field, freshman Grace Jeffries followed the hit up with a single of her own, giving the Bearcats two base runners with no outs.
The Bearcats couldn’t capitalize and failed to bring either runner home, losing 5-2.
Northwest struggled to get runners on base and score them, but the Bearcats did not struggle to hit the ball. Many of the Bearcats’ outs in the first game were hard-hit balls directly at Central defenders.
“You know, in the first game we hit the ball better than they did; it just didn’t show,” Anderson said. “We had some 15-pitch at bats, some 10-pitch at bats; but we had no hits to show for it. It’s like, we made their pitchers work and their defense work, but yet we didn’t get the end result.”
Central controlled the second game of the afternoon, too, as the Jennies beat the Bearcats 13-3.
The game started slow, with both teams recording one hit in the first inning and no hits in the second.
Central opened the scoring column in the top of the third inning with freshman Abbey Fischer’s solo home run. Fowler followed up the home run with a double and after a McAtee walk, the Jennies had runners on first and third with no outs. Freshman Sydney Wellshear doubled and Cook singled to score three more for the Jennies, giving them a 4-0 lead heading into the bottom of the third inning.
Northwest tacked on two runs in the third on singles by Daugherty and senior Kaitlyn Weis to bring the lead to a 4-2 Jennies’ advantage.
The score remained at 4-2 until the top of the sixth inning, when Central blew the game open.
The Jennies used six hits, three walks and a wild pitch to score six runs in the inning to secure a 10-2 lead.
“They didn’t hit the ball hard,” Anderson said about the Jennies. “They had the bloop, the walk and then they’d hit the shot in the gap and score one or two runs. You know, they had a few hard hits, but they just hit when they needed to hit.”
Down eight runs, the Northwest bench was fired up for the bottom of the sixth inning, as the Bearcats tried to mount a comeback.
“We try to change our energy, you know, to change what’s going on in the game,” freshman Abby Nolte said. “If our energy is up in the dugout, hopefully that can help change our at bats.”
As the dugout grew louder, Weis hit a leadoff solo home run over the center-field fence to cut the lead to 10-3.
Weis’ solo home run was the last run the Bearcats scored for the afternoon, as they were quickly retired to end the inning.
Central added three more runs in the top of the seventh, and the Bearcats couldn’t create a comeback in the bottom of the seventh, losing the game 13-3.
Northwest has struggled with walking batters this season, a trend that continued against the Jennies. Northwest pitchers walked 10 batters in the two games of the afternoon.
“As pitchers, we gotta figure that out,” Anderson said. “We still gotta throw strikes, you know, we gotta attack the batters and we gotta go after them.”
Northwest looks to bounce back from these losses when they host doubleheaders in Maryville with the current leader of the MIAA standings, Central Oklahoma, April 9 and Newman April 10.
“We just wanna come out here and give it out best every single game,” Nolte said. “So, hopefully, we can come back out on Friday and Saturday and get a win or two.”