Playing the 25th-ranked team in the nation wasn’t an easy task for the Webster University softball team. The Gorloks dropped both games of a March 24 home doubleheader to the Illinois Wesleyan University Titans, 9-0 and 13-0.
The Gorloks’ bats were silent in both games, only coming up with two combined hits — one by freshman Taylor Gibbs in the first game and one by senior Tabatha Bahre in the second game. The Titans totaled 23 hits and 22 runs in the doubleheader at Blackburn Park, which were Webster’s first home games of the season.
With the losses, Webster fell to 4-14. The Gorloks are on a seven-game losing streak. Illinois Wesleyan improved to 10-1 with the victories.
In Game 1, the Titans quickly got on the board in the first inning and grabbed a 1-0 lead. Both pitchers — sophomore Trisha Thompson for Webster and sophomore Molly McCready for Illinois Wesleyan — battled each other in the second, third and fourth innings to keep the score at 1-0.
In the fifth inning, things fell apart for the Gorloks. The Titans scored eight runs in the frame, including a grand slam by sophomore Sara Daley, to put the game out of reach. The Gorloks couldn’t mount a comeback and fell 9-0.
“It just got away from us,” Webster coach Chris Eaton said. “It seems like it’s been our trend this year. We’ve been playing pretty good most of the game — we just have one inning that gets away from us.”
Junior Ashley Meagher relieved Thompson in the fifth and finished the game. Thompson’s final line was 4 1/3 innings pitched, four hits and five earned runs. The Gorloks’ defense made three costly errors during the game, while the offense didn’t get a hit until the fifth inning.
Eaton knew it was going to be a battle against the Titans, who are ranked 25th in the National Fastpitch Coaches Association poll. In between games, Eaton tried to get his team to regroup.
“(I told them to) just shake it off and try to make adjustments at the plate,” Eaton said. “Telling them where to move in the box, trying to get ready for conference play.”
In the second game of the doubleheader, Meagher took the mound for the Gorloks and shut down the Titans through two innings. In the third, Illinois Wesleyan scored two runs on three hits, as Webster’s defense committed two errors. Sophomore Samantha Powers made a diving catch in right field to end the inning.
The Titans’ offense started to heat up in the fourth and fifth innings, as they took over the game by scoring 11 runs and pounding 12 hits to short-game Webster in five innings, 13-0. The offense for the Gorloks struggled again at the plate, producing only one hit by Bahre against Illinois Wesleyan starting left-handed pitcher Alyssa Vorel.
“We struggled today,” Eaton said. “Their pitchers were hitting their spots pretty good. We tried to adjust a little bit, and it’s the first time we’ve seen left-handed pitching all season, so it was a little different with their spin of the ball.”
Meagher allowed 10 earned runs on 17 hits in 4 2/3 innings pitched against the Titans’ powerful offense.
“Our team learned that we have a lot of things to put together; we are struggling with the easy things,” Meagher said. “The routine ground balls and pop flies, moving runners over when we have them on base — we can’t win games if we don’t execute what we are given.”
McCready and Vorel are the Titans’ two aces. McCready is 3-0 with a 0.00 ERA, and Vorel is 3-1 with a 0.88 ERA. Opposing batters are hitting only .114 and .145 against them, respectively.
“Going in, we knew that the pitchers had good movement, so I think we all just were thinking about what pitches we could possibly see instead of just seeing the ball and hitting it,” Gibbs said. “The pitching was good, but we helped them out a little bit as well. This will only help us for the next time we play them and give us a little motivation.”
With conference play looming, Eaton will urge his players to step up in key moments throughout the games.
“We need people to start picking it up,” Eaton said. “If we have a bad inning, someone needs to step up and try and help our pitchers out. Right now, we’re not having anybody doing that. Nobody is stepping up — we just need people to step up.”
The Gorloks will open conference play with a doubleheader against Westminster College on March 29 at Blackburn Park. The games are scheduled to begin at 4 p.m. and 6 p.m.
“We are going into conference with a 0-0 record, so we have learned and actually use it to do better in conference,” Meagher said. “There isn’t a team in our conference we should lose to. As long as we put the pieces together and play softball as a team, we should have no problem winning the conference and advancing to the conference tournament.”