April 16, 2012
I overheard someone yesterday saying that Loyola softball just finished playing 15 games in 16 days. That explains why the past two weeks have been a blur, but it has all been worth it since we now find ourselves in second place in the Horizon League behind only by Valparaiso, a team we have yet to play. Overall, it's not a bad place to be roughly halfway through the season and our goal is to get into the conference tournament in May and I think we are well on our way to accomplishing that.
Since I last blogged we have played four separate Horizon League series along with a handful of non-conference games, but I'll try to recap them as best as I can. First, a week after taking two from Wright State, we faced Butler. All three games were tough battles and we ended up salvaging one game in the series. The win, the second game of the series, was thanks to a grand slam by Lauren Zaworski and lights-out pitching that shut down the Butler offense after we had gained the lead. Overall, the team came out of the weekend disappointed with the results but still hopeful. We all felt that Butler was one of the tougher teams we would be facing in the Horizon League so to take one still felt good. We were ready to keep going and take on whatever team came next.
That team ended up being DePaul. It was not until after we beat DePaul 1-0 that we found out they were ranked 15th in the nation. I can't say anything else about that game except that we fought hard and provided a glimpse of what our team is capable of accomplishing.
The following weekend (April 6-7 for those who can't keep up) contained our first conference games at home. This time we faced Youngstown State and the team came out swinging the bats well from the first pitch. The first game was an 11-0, run-rule win. Everyone was hitting and everyone was hitting well. The next two games were the same with a 9-3 win and a closer 5-1 victory to close out a successful weekend.
After Youngstown State came UIC for a rare middle-of-the-week home series. Because of a not-so-favorable weather forecast, we wound up playing a single game on Wednesday instead of the scheduled doubleheader. But the sun ended up shining on Wednesday to make for a perfect, if slightly chilly, softball day. Brittany Gardner was on the mound and threw a shutout and Lauren Arceneaux had the game-winning RBI on a bloop hit to give us a 1-0 win. It doesn't always have to be pretty, just functional. The next day, we were hoping for the sweep ended up losing the first game of the doubleheader. We wanted to at least win the series and we ended up doing exactly that even though it took eight innings and a clutch single by Annie Korth to beat UIC 7-6. It was a huge win for the team against our crosstown rivals.
That brings us to this past weekend and our most recent series against Cleveland State. Unlike some conferences, the Horizon League has a lot of good teams, which is what makes the regular season so competitive. Any team can win at any time, which means that none of them can be taken lightly. We knew that Cleveland State was a good hitting team by their high scoring games and that its best pitcher and hitter had transferred at the end of last season. Although we went into the weekend thinking we could sweep Cleveland State, a lethal combination of errors and leaving runners on base led to two losses on Saturday. We ended up with a combined 23 hits on the day but were unable to score enough runners. These were tough losses for the team mentally, especially coming after the high we were on after taking two against UIC. Maybe we let our guard down or maybe we were just trying a little too hard but the day would not be considered a good outing. The entire team was left to go back to our rooms that night to do some hard thinking.
Sunday, though, brought a new day and a chance for redemption. We won the third game of the series 3-0 and Brittany pitched a no-hitter (something I did not even realize until the game was over). The win felt great. We went back to the confident softball that we had been playing just three days prior against UIC. It is too soon to tell but maybe we needed the reality check. We are still a talented team that can compete with anyone. There is a low point in every season (last year it was ironically also against Cleveland State) but recovery is possible and we will be stronger for it.
This brings us to the current week and state of mind. We will have one day of practice on Tuesday before heading to play University of Wisconsin-Green Bay on Wednesday and Thursday. Practice is going to be all about reps and fine-tuning parts of our game. We have all of the basic tools but perfecting them never stops. Because we are off this weekend, most of us will be heading to our respective homes to recharge, and I will be going back to Michigan for the first time since winter break! We are be gearing up for what is the most hectic part of season, the last two weeks, which combine important games layered over final exams and papers. But, before we know it, school will finish and it will be time for conference tournament. Our goal is coming nearer and we are going to keep doing everything in our power to prepare ourselves.
Until next time,
Emily Bentley #27