A rough opening act to the 2020 Northwest softball season continued with a 1-4 road trip to the 5-States Classic Feb. 21-23 in Emporia, Kansas.
A lone win over Minnesota Duluth (5-6) and losses to Maryville (5-7), Concordia-St. Paul (4-5), Wayne State (5-4) and Minnesota State (7-3) resulted in the Bearcats falling to a record of 3-11 as MIAA competition draws nearer.
Northwest began their slate of games with a game Friday against Maryville which saw sophomore left fielder Jacee Winn score two runs off of two RBIs from senior center fielder Sydne Brashear courtesy of her double in the third inning and a sacrifice groundout in the fifth inning.
The Bearcats would score one more run on a solo homerun from sophomore right fielder Olivia Daugherty but ultimately lost 6-3 after allowing the Saints to score in four straight innings.
Following that matchup, Northwest took on Minnesota Duluth, opening the game with two solo home runs in the first inning by Brashear and senior shortstop Kaitlyn Weis. Despite not scoring for the remainder of the game, the Bearcats would retain their lead and defeat the Bulldogs 2-1, giving senior pitcher Rachel Smith her second win of the year. Coach Ryan Anderson, however, felt that there was still a great deal of room for improvement.
“Rachel pitched very well, but we had a chance to score more and that’s the mindset we have to realize, to keep going and keep swinging, and the bats are going to come through,” Anderson said.
Saturday began with Northwest taking on Concordia-St. Paul for the third time this year with the squads having split the first two meetings. Two runs were tallied, one by senior third baseman Erin Keeney who reached home on a single from freshman second baseman Abby Nolte in the sixth inning and another by Weis who scored on a solo home run for the second day in a row in the seventh inning. Despite both teams recording nine hits, the Golden Bears would steal four bases, taking greater advantage of their opportunities and defeating Northwest 6-2.
The Bearcats would follow that game with their best offensive output of the trip, scoring five runs in a game against Wayne State. Nolte scored once again, this time taking home off of a wild pitch in the second inning. Sophomore catcher Ady Watts would also score in the second inning, reaching home from third base on a fielding error.
Winn would score for a second straight day in the fourth inning after an outfield single from Weis. The Bearcats’ final two runs came in the sixth inning when Daugherty reached home on a sacrifice flyout by Weis and Brashear scored on an outfield single by senior first baseman Karli Allen. Regardless of their offensive successes, Northwest would surrender six runs to the Wildcats, losing 6-5.
The ’Cats would finish their road trip with a single game against Minnesota State on Sunday. However, they would be shut out, producing four hits in an 8-0 defeat to the Mavericks. The Bearcats suffered a combination of problems defensively as well, committing two errors and allowing eight runs on nine hits.
“On paper, the stats didn’t look great, but we’re getting to where we need to be,” Anderson said, reflecting on the trip. “We’ll keep fighting, keep playing and get better.”
The Bearcats will have one more opportunity before MIAA play begins with a trip Feb. 29 and March 1 to the Drury Invitational in Springfield, Missouri. They will have an opportunity to avenge their loss to Wayne State along with games against Drury (6-4), Newman (3-10) and Southwest Baptist (1-10).