The Northwest softball team lost three of four games on a late-season road trip to Fort Hays State and Nebraska-Kearney.
The Bearcats (14-18, 8-12 MIAA) struggled to pick up wins despite being within one run in each of their three losses.
Northwest started the road trip against the Fort Hays State Tigers, dropping the first game 3-2.
The Tigers used two walks to open the scoring column in the first inning with freshman Loren Beggs’ two RBI triple, giving the Tigers a 2-0 lead.
Northwest answered with two runs in the top of the third inning, as freshman Grace Jeffries doubled, sophomore Hannah Blackford tripled to bring in Jeffries and sophomore Jacee Winn singled to drive in Blackford to tie the game at 2.
The tie didn’t stick around for long, however, as the Tigers took the lead back in the bottom of the third. Junior Sara Breckbill walked and advanced to second on a wild pitch shortly after. Sophomore Jessica Espinoza capitalized on the Bearcats’ mistake and singled to bring Breckbill across to score, giving the Tigers a 3-2 lead.
Hays’ slim lead held, as Northwest tallied a few hits as the game progressed but ultimately could not get anything going and fell 3-2.
The Bearcats struck out eight times and left six runners on base in the loss; the lack of offensive production is something that has plagued Northwest all season long
“They’re learning now,” graduate assistant coach Brianna Billie said. “Once they learn from those mistakes, we can be able to push those runs across the board.”
The second game of the doubleheader featured a much stronger offensive performance from Northwest, as the Bearcats took a 3-0 lead into the fourth inning before the Tigers came clawing back.
Hays used freshman Kristen Reed’s sacrifice fly, sophomore Elsie Capra’s RBI single and freshman Sarah Tiffany’s RBI double to tie the game at 3 in the fourth.
The Bearcats regained a slim 4-3 lead on sophomore Olivia Daugherty’s RBI single in the sixth inning.
Northwest’s lead didn’t hold, as the Tigers walked off the Bearcats with sophomore Betsy Parmley’s two-RBI single to win the game for the Tigers 5-4.
The loss was Northwest’s fourth straight one-run loss, dating back to an April 14 doubleheader against Missouri Western, in which both games resulted in one-run losses.
“I can honestly say that we are doing everything right to win those games,” Billie said. “We’re just missing it by one point. You know, it’s just the luck of the draw. Sometimes you can give 110% and still get the bad end of the stick.”
Despite the two losses, the Bearcats’ pitching rotation had a good day, striking out six, giving up eight runs and 15 hits in the two games combined.
“The game starts with them,” Billie said. “If they’re off, the team is off, but as long as they stay on, we’ll still be on too.”
After the losses to Hays, the Bearcats traveled to Kearney, Nebraska, to take on Nebraska-Kearney Lopers.
The Bearcats started the doubleheader with a 9-8 loss to the Lopers after mounting a comeback from a 7-1 deficit.
Kearney jumped out to a 6-1 lead on Northwest with three home runs, including junior Avery Wood’s grand slam in the second inning and solo home runs by sophomores Katie Gosker and Bri Healy in the third inning. Freshman Abbie Jo Gaube scored in the bottom of the fourth, giving the Lopers a 7-1 lead heading into the fifth inning.
The Bearcats found the offense they had been looking for in the top of the fifth inning, as Northwest scored three runs on home runs with a two-run home run from Daugherty and a solo home run from Nolte, cutting the lead to 7-4.
Northwest tied the game in the sixth inning, as a single from Blackford scored sophomore Alexis Kump. Winn drove in sophomore Grace Ruehle, and senior Kaitlyn Weis singled to drive in Blackford.
Kearney took a 9-7 lead in the bottom of the sixth with junior Hailey Schaneman’s two-run home run, and the Bearcats answered in the top of the seventh inning with sophomore Madison Friest’s solo home run.
However, the Bearcat comeback was stopped short, and Northwest lost the game 9-8.
“Just keep swinging the bat,” Nolte said about how the team can win close games. “We were just having the worst luck with games this last weekend. We couldn’t seem to pull the wins out when we had them.”
The Bearcats finished the weekend with a 11-9 victory over the Lopers.
Northwest and Kearney combined for 20 runs, 19 hits and five home runs in the Bearcats’ explosive win.
The Bearcats scored three in the top of the first inning, and the Lopers answered back with four runs in the bottom of the first.
Kearney added to their 4-3 lead in the bottom of the third on Gosker’s two-run home run.
The back-and-forth game continued as the Bearcats scored two with Winn’s two-RBI single, cutting the Lopers’ lead to 6-5.
Northwest took the lead in the fifth, as Weis singled and Kump reached on an error leading to sophomore Ady Watt’s three-run home run to give the Bearcats a 8-6 lead. Northwest added to the lead in the sixth with a flurry of hits that gave the Bearcats an 11-6 lead.
The Lopers scored three on three doubles and a walk in the bottom of the sixth and cut the lead to 11-9, but the comeback was halted as the Bearcats closed the game out in the seventh for a 11-9 win.
The Bearcats now look to the end of the regular season. With three doubleheaders left in the season, the team needs to be firing on all cylinders.
“It seems like everyone as a team is getting more comfortable at the plate,” Nolte said. “Which is making our team at bats worthwhile as we can work our counts to end up with hits or a walk.”
After being on the road this late in the season, it is easy for a team to get fatigued, something Billie said she wants to see the team move past as the regular season winds down.
“I want to see us continue to play as a team,” Billie said. “I want us to be able to keep it together as a team. Everyone’s tired, from the roads, from practice, from going to class everyday then having to go to practice. I want to see us stick together and stay as a team and stay fundamentally sound throughout the rest of the season.”