All season long, Webster University first-year softball player Kristin Rolla has heard stories from her teammates about previous battles the Gorloks have had with conference rival Fontbonne University. When Webster goes toe-to-toe with the Griffins for the first time this season on April 18, Rolla will get to experience the much-discussed rivalry firsthand.
“They (my teammates) really, really want to beat Fontbonne,” said Rolla, a sophomore center fielder. “Throughout the entire year, all they’ve been talking about is ‘It’s Fontbonne that matters, it’s Fontbonne that counts. They’re the team we have to beat, so we have to work our way up to beat them.’
“I heard they get really, really excited and really jacked to play Fontbonne, and you know it’s just going to be a crazy game once we go out there. I’m looking forward to it. I want to see how this rivalry goes.”
Webster sits tied for second place in the St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference with a 7-3 record. The Gorloks will travel to Fontbonne’s home facility — ABC Ball Park in St. Ann — to play a doubleheader against the first-place Griffins (17-9 overall, 6-0 SLIAC). Game 1 starts at 5 p.m., while Game 2 is slated to begin at 7 p.m.
“I always try to tell the girls, ‘Don’t put too much into those two games. I know it’s a big rivalry, but we need to play the same against all conference teams,’” Webster coach Chris Eaton said. “I think it will be big just to show the girls — they’re having a really good season, Fontbonne is — that we can play with them. We’ve played some tough games against some tough teams, so it should have prepared us to play against them.”
In preparation for the doubleheader against Fontbonne, the Gorloks hosted Washington University (22-10 overall) for an April 15 doubleheader at Blackburn Park. Webster did not score a run in either contest and only mustered three hits in each game, as the Bears coasted to 4-0 and 6-0 wins.
In Game 1, WashU senior Olivia Cook tossed a complete-game shutout and allowed only five Gorloks to reach base. Webster sophomore Trisha Thompson countered with a strong pitching performance of her own. Thompson allowed three earned runs and struck out seven in seven innings pitched, but dropped to 8-7 with the loss.
In Game 2, the Bears got another complete-game, shutout performance from their starting pitcher. WashU sophomore Kelsey Neal threw seven innings and allowed only three Webster base runners.
Neal received all the run support she needed in the first inning. The Bears banged out four runs on three hits, two walks, one steal and a Webster error. Webster junior pitcher Ashley Meagher settled down after the opening frame, but she fell to 5-11 with the loss.
Junior catcher Aly Watson was one of only five Gorloks to record a hit, and Rolla led the way by getting two hits on the afternoon. Cook and Neal combined for just four strikeouts as Webster frequently put the ball in play. But WashU’s stout defense was up for the task and did not commit an error in either game.
“Our energy level maybe wasn’t as high as it has been recently when we’ve been playing,” Watson said. “Their pitchers weren’t overpowering, but we just weren’t getting it done today. Both of them were very hittable. I think a lot of it is just kind of mental right now.”
On April 13, the Gorloks hosted conference opponent Spalding University (20-11, 7-3 SLIAC) for a doubleheader at Blackburn Park. Webster beat the Golden Eagles 4-1 in Game 1, but lost Game 2 in a lightning-shortened, five-inning affair, 4-3.
Meagher was solid in the opener. She pitched seven innings, allowing one run on four hits while striking out six. The Gorloks tallied one run in four separate innings and amassed eight hits.
In Game 2, Thompson lasted 2 2/3 innings before being relieved by Meagher. Thompson allowed four runs — three earned — on four hits. Meagher didn’t allow a run in her 2 1/3 innings of work.
Umpires called the game in the bottom of the sixth inning due to lightning. Spalding plated two in the top of the sixth and held a 6-3 lead, but Webster was poised for a comeback with runners on first and third, and one out. The final score was reverted to 4-3 because the sixth inning was not completed.
With the split against Spalding and the two losses to WashU, Webster is 13-19 overall on the season. Webster entered the Spalding doubleheader having won seven of eight games. But the Gorloks scored only seven combined runs in their four games against Spalding and WashU. Webster is now on a three-game losing streak.
“Obviously, losing the past three has kind of got us a little down, but we know we’re a good team,” Rolla said. “Fontbonne’s our next game, and they’re our rivals I’ve heard, so we get really jacked up for that. I feel like these last three games are going to (motivate) us to want to win even more, especially against Fontbonne. If anything, these three losses should help us a little bit.
“Because once we face Fontbonne, I think it’s going to be just crazy.”