After a weekend where pitching was the top story, the softball team’s offense showed the Ohio Valley Conference its bats were not too shabby either, smashing seven home runs against Southeast Missouri State during a three-game sweep.
With three victories during the weekend, the Cougars are on a 10-game win streak and are in second place in the OVC with a 9-1 record.
Head Coach Sandy Montgomery said she was impressed with how the Cougars handled themselves with the bat during the weekend.
“I was very happy with our offense and just our approach at the plate,” Montgomery said. “The kids did a great job this weekend; I mean, we had 40-plus hits on the weekend. We were really swinging the bat.”
Montgomery said a key to the offense’s success was commanding respect from the opposition’s pitchers.
“[I saw] just a real, offensive-minded approach,” Montgomery said. “We were not letting the pitcher control our at-bats, and that’s crucial to success. The kids were more relaxed and just really saw the ball well. We were hitting all the way through the lineup.”
On Saturday, March 28, the Cougars hit three homers in their first game, including two in a seven-run second inning. Senior outfielder Brittany Toney hit a solo shot — her fourth home run of the year — to get the Cougars on the board. Later in the inning, junior pitcher Haley Chambers hit a grand slam for her team-high fifth homer of the year, giving the team an early 5-0 lead.
In the fifth inning, junior infielder Rachel Keller hit the final home run of the day, smacking a two-run blast to put the game out of reach for SEMO. It was Keller’s second home run of the season.
Chambers won her 15th game of the year, going the full six innings, while allowing three earned runs. She also struck out eight batters.
In the second game of the day, the Cougars did not hit any home runs, but still defeated the Redhawks 7-0 in freshman pitcher Baylee Douglass’ 10th win of the season.
Douglass threw a one-hitter, going the full seven innings and striking out seven batters.
On offense, senior shortstop Alex McDavid led the team with three hits, one of which was a two-RBI double in the seventh inning. Chambers, senior outfielder Rebecca Gray and junior outfielder Jordan LaFave finished the game with two hits.
While McDavid’s three-hit performance was impressive, she was not done with her big weekend at the plate. On Sunday, March 29, McDavid hit two home runs, her third and fourth of the season.
In the second inning with the Cougars trailing, McDavid hit a solo shot, which helped start a four-run inning. McDavid closed out the game with a two-RBI blast in the seventh inning to secure the victory for SIUE.
The two other home runs hit by the team on Sunday were hit by Chambers — her sixth of the year — and LaFave.
Chambers improved to a 16-3 in the victory, going seven innings while allowing four earned runs. Chambers tops the OVC in almost every pitching category and is also the conference’s hit leader.
While statistically the Cougars have been fantastic, winning is the most important thing. Montgomery said getting three victories on the road will be important if the Cougars hope to repeat as OVC champs.
“You have to be able to win on the road if you’re going to be able to win a championship,” Montgomery said. “The fact that we could sweep was huge. SEMO’s got some offense.”
The Cougars’ next game is at 4 p.m. Wednesday, April 1, when they take on rival SIUC. Montgomery said the most important thing is that the team improves before it returns to conference play.
“We’re not playing sharp defensively as I would like, so that’s going to be our focus,” Montgomery said. “We’ve been trying to work very hard about not worrying about who we’re playing, but worrying about how we play. We’re going to continue to do that. Carbondale is a rivalry game; we love to play them and certainly win, but we’re going to focus on what we need to do to get better for the weekend.”
SIUE returns home for four games this weekend, two against Jacksonville State and two against Tennessee Technological University, on Friday, April 3 and Saturday, April 4, respectively. Montgomery said it will be no easy task keeping the Cougars’ win streak.
“They’re both teams that are contenders in the conference,” Montgomery said. “They are both playing well. They both have good pitching and can score runs as well. We’re going to have to play well to come out on top this weekend.”