Softball on win streak as season closes

Sophomore pitcher Haley Chambers whips the ball toward home plate as junior third baseman Alex McDavid prepares for the ball to be hit her way April 13. Chambers and McDavid helped lead the Cougars to four victories during the weekend. Chambers pitched the team to two victories and provided offensive production in another. McDavid collected five hits throughout the four games, including three hits in the finale Sunday.       

The softball team pushed its conference winning streak to seven games by winning both of its two-game series against Tennessee State and Belmont during the weekend.

The four victories keep the Cougars in first place in the Ohio Valley Conference West division, with six conference games remaining before the OVC tournament.

Head Coach Sandy Montgomery saw some flaws in her team’s play during the four games, but said she could not complain much given the outcomes.

“We weren’t exceptionally sharp,” Montgomery said. “We continue to try to improve on that and get to the end of the year and peak when we’re supposed to. Anytime you get four wins in the conference, on the road, you’ve got to be happy about that.”

Throughout the seven-game conference winning streak, the Cougars have scored more than four runs on only two occasions. Montgomery said the key to the team’s success has been solid pitching and opportune hitting.

“We’ve been pitching well,” Montgomery said. “That’s been keeping us in ball games. We’ve been getting timely hitting. That’s crucial this time of the year. You’ve got to get timely hitting, good pitching and play good defense. If you can do all of those things, you’re going to get good results.”

In game one against Tennessee State (16-31 overall, 4-13 OVC), sophomore Haley Chambers (14-12) continued to build on her already successful season by getting the victory. In the win, Chambers went the entire seven innings, striking out 10, while giving up two earned runs on three hits.

Montgomery said Chambers, who was 10-1 in OVC play after the victory, has stepped up as one of the team leaders this season.

“She’s pitching well, no doubt about it,” Montgomery said. “Her only loss is when we threw her in back-to-back games. She’s confident. She’s got command of her pitches for the most part. Being a lefty is certainly an advantage for her. She has good velocity and can keep hitters off-balance. She’s doing well right now and someone we consider a go-to right now.”

In the second game of the day, freshman Alexis Kohrs (1-0) impressed in her first victory of the season. Pitching a complete game, Kohrs did not give up an earned run in the appearance.

Montgomery was impressed by the freshman’s performance and said Kohrs’ defense helped her get the win.

“She limited her hits and didn’t let them spray the ball around or give up back-to-back hits,” Montgomery said. “She limited her walks and really kept the ball down. She’s a tough, hard drop ball pitcher. She gets a lot of ground ball outs for us and, luckily, we played good defense for her. When she can do that, we’re going to be successful.”

On Sunday, Chambers was back on the mound for the first game against Belmont. Like her appearance Saturday, Chambers got the victory, going seven innings while giving up two earned runs on four hits.

Along with her performance on the mound, Chambers went 2 for 3 from the plate, with a double and triple.

In game two of the series, Kohrs saw early trouble in the first inning and was pulled for senior Erin Greenwalt. During her six-inning outing, Greenwalt gave up no hits or runs while striking out five in the win.

Junior third baseman Alex McDavid and senior catcher Rachel Coonrod sparked the Cougars’ offense in the game.

McDavid went 3 for 4 at the plate, with a double. Coonrod went 2 for 4, with two RBIs.

The Cougars will play Evansville Thursday, April 24, in the team’s last non-conference game of the year. After that game, the players have six conference games to improve their record and remain in first place.

Montgomery said the team is not worried about how other teams play during that stretch because the Cougars’ fate is in their own hands.

“We’re just talking about us,” Montgomery said. “We need to clean up some things and continue to try to improve and be the best that we can be going into the end of the year. Both Eastern Illinois and Murray State will be challenging because they’re both good teams. When you’re No. 1 in the conference, everyone plays their best against you. We have to make sure we show up and do everything we can to control our own destiny.”

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