The Webster University softball team started the season off hot by winning seven of their first nine games, then cooled down to the tune of five straight losses. But with two victories in a row, including a win over the No. 19 team in the country, the Gorloks look to be on the upswing once again.
Webster knocked off Augustana College 6-5 and Coe College 12-6 on March 20 in the Marriott West tournament at Washington University. The back-to-back wins improved the Gorloks’ record to 9-7.
Coe had entered the game against Webster with a 12-4 record and a No. 19 ranking in the National Fastpitch Coaches Association poll. The Gorloks will try to carry the momentum over from the two wins into their games this week, as Webster plays six games in three days.
“We always try to preach that we want to be playing our best ball when we start conference,” Webster coach Chris Eaton said. “I told them it’s a step in the right direction. Hopefully, we can just keep building on that.”
The Gorloks travel to Illinois College on March 23 to take on the 6-6 Lady Blues in a doubleheader. Two days later, Webster will begin the St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference round-robin tournament.
The Gorloks face 3-4 Fontbonne University at 4 p.m. and 6-3 Spalding University at 6 p.m. on March 25. The next day, Webster plays 2-6 Eureka College at noon and 1-10 Greenville College at 4 p.m. All four games will be played at ABC Park in St. Ann.
Webster’s game against Fontbonne will be a rematch of last year’s SLIAC championship game. Even though the Gorloks won the regular season title for the fourth straight year, the Griffins had the last laugh, as they ended the Gorloks’ season by winning the SLIAC postseason tournament championship game.
In the 2011 SLIAC preseason coaches’ poll, Fontbonne was voted as the favorite to win the conference. That poll has only motivated the Gorloks even more as they prepare for their conference slate.
“I know the girls are really pumped for the conference season, just because they weren’t picked to win,” Eaton said. “All of the teams voted for Fontbonne to win, so I think it’s motivation. They’re already motivated to play Fontbonne, but they’re more motivated to play everybody else this year, too.”
The SLIAC round-robin games won’t count towards the teams’ conference records, but they will give the teams an idea of where they stand as they get ready for the conference season. The Gorloks will lock horns with Fontbonne in a doubleheader starting at 6 p.m. at Blackburn Park when SLIAC play on March 31.
Webster will enter their upcoming games brimming with confidence after beating Augustana and Coe behind a great offensive output and timely pitching. In the Gorloks’ one-run win over Augustana, Webster carried a 6-0 lead into the bottom of the seventh inning.
Junior starting pitcher Meghan Lokey allowed her first runs of the game when Viking Krista Watson hit a grand slam. After the homer, Augustana managed to again load the bases. With two outs and the bases jammed, Lokey managed to get Lauren Schneiderbauer to fly out to left, which clinched the win for Webster.
Besides getting the complete game win, Lokey also went 2 for 4 from the leadoff spot. She said that in the final inning, she relied on her defense to get her out of the pressure-packed inning.
“I would be lying to say I wasn’t nervous,” Lokey said. “As a pitcher, it’s always a lot more comfortable to be ahead and do things without the drama. We definitely pulled together. After going through that five-game losing streak, we all wanted it so bad. We were going to come out winning no matter what.”
In Webster’s win over Coe, the Gorloks’ offense came up big. Webster stung the Kohawks for 12 runs on 14 hits. Lokey and sophomore Jessica Arcangel both went 3 for 4, while juniors Chelsea Schaffer and Hanna Brindisi both went 2 for 3.
Webster had leads of 2-0 and 4-2, but Coe grabbed the lead in the top of the fifth inning, 6-4. Sophomore pitcher Ashley Meagher entered the game and stopped the bleeding by striking out the first two batters she faced.
The Gorloks’ bats responded right away, as a three-run rally in the bottom of the fifth gave Webster the lead for good. Meagher stifled a potent Coe attack, as she allowed only one person to reach base in 2 2/3 innings of work. For her efforts, Meagher was named the SLIAC pitcher of the week for March 14-20.
Eaton said he gave the team three extra days off after they lost both games of a doubleheader against DePauw University on March 12. According to Eaton, the extra rest may have revitalized his team.
“They were just pumped to play,” Eaton said. “They realized that if we play our game, we can beat anybody. (Meagher) did really well and shut them down.”
Lokey said the wins gave Webster a confidence boost. She added that the Gorloks are looking forward to their match-ups with Fontbonne, when they will have the chance to prove themselves.
“As a team, we’re more hungry than we have been all season,” Lokey said. “We’ll definitely get to show everybody the real team that we are.”