by JACOB WOERTHER
Jennies softball swept Lindenwood Monday, April 24, at the South Recreation Complex to secure the three seed in the upcoming MIAA Tournament.
While the Jens barely broke the .500 mark this season with a 28-25 record, the tournament will seed them based on their much more impressive 17-9 conference record. The Jennies also enter the tournament with some of their best momentum of the season, winning eight of their last nine games and seven of their last 10 conference games.
The tournament will consist of the eight teams with the best conference record in the MIAA. The Jennies will begin their navigation through the tournament with a matchup against a team that they struggled with earlier this season: the No. 6 Northwest Bearcats.
In their first meeting, the Bearcats jumped out to 5-0 lead in the first inning. Alexa Bradley gave up an additional two runs in the fourth before Jordan Johnson took the mound. The Bearcats stacked two more runs following Johnson’s start and the game was called in the fifth due to the mercy rule. Taylor Blackford stifled the Jennies offense and only two Jens reached base over the span of the game.
The Jennies played significantly better in their second game, but still failed to get the win. After falling behind 2-0 in the first, the Jennies tied the game in the fourth following an error and a single from Aubrey Daniel. The Bearcats, however tacked on the final two runs of the game in the fourth inning.
Kaitlyn Weis was the difference-maker for the Bearcats in their second outing. The right fielder and pitcher had an RBI and held the Jennies scoreless over 3 1/3 innings.
Although the Bearcats are the six seed in the tournament, they finished just one game behind the Jennies in the conference. As a team, the Bearcats have a .303 batting average and possess three players that are batting over .300. Their pitching staff currently leads the MIAA in strikeouts and has a combined 2.42 ERA.
The Jens will be forced to hurdle another challenging team following their game against Northwest. With a win over Northwest, the Jennies will advance to play the winner of Pittsburg State and Southwest Baptist. If the Jennies fall to the Bearcats, they will face the loser of that game.
The Jennies series against the Gorillas this season mirrored their series against the Bearcats. The Gorillas got out to an early lead in the first game, scoring three runs in the first inning and adding an additional three in the third. The Gorilla’s Emmie Robertson held the Jennies scoreless over six innings and allowed just four hits.
The Jennies pushed the Gorillas to extra innings in game two, but the Gorillas escaped with a walk-off victory in the ninth. Roberston once again put on a stellar performance for the Gorillas, allowing just four hits and no earned runs over nine innings.
The Gorillas victories this season have relied heavily on their pitchers. Their pitching staff ranks second in the MIAA with an ERA of 1.83. Robertson leads the MIAA with a .74 ERA, she is first in the conference in wins with 28, and her 282 strikeouts top every pitcher in the MIAA.
The Jennies had a better showing against SBU this season as opposed to the Gorillas. The Jennies and SBU split a series during which each team walked away with an 8-0 victory after five innings.
SBU dominated the first game with Kacey Ayers on the mound. Ayers held the Jennies scoreless and allowed only four over five innings.
Alexa Bradley returned the favor and pitched a shutout in game two. The Jennies offense aided the win with eight runs, four of which were driven in by Hailey Crabtree.
Despite a poor performance in game two against the Jens, SBU’s pitching staff sits right behind the Gorillas at third in the MIAA with 1.84 ERA. Claire Miller heads into the tournament with a 1.24 ERA and 163 strikeouts on the season. The Bearcats also have a solid defense that is responsible for the best fielding percentage in the MIAA at 98 percent.
The Jennies will kickoff the tournament against the Northwest Bearcats at 5 p.m. April 27 in Oklahoma City. Their second game will take place later that night at 7:30 p.m. regardless of whether they win or lose.