Senior pitcher Trisha Thompson didn’t know she was zeroing in on her own Webster University softball record for strikeouts for a single game until almost halfway through the game. After starting her Saturday, March 16 game versus Grinnell College (Iowa) at Blackburn Park by striking out the first nine batters, Thompson continued the trend to eclipse her personal best with 18 strikeouts on the day. Thompson’s previous record was 15 strikeouts in a game in last season.
“I didn’t really realize until the fourth inning that I might have a chance of breaking my record,” Thompson said. “That was when one of the girls on the team was like, ‘Trisha, you know you’re about to break your record?’ And I was like, ‘What?’ She’s like, ‘Yeah, but if we end it in 5 innings, you won’t be able to.’ I was pretty much just thinking about that. Once I broke it, I thought I might as well keep going. It just worked for me.”
Thompson’s 18 strikeouts — out of 22 batters faced — helped lead the Gorloks to a 7-0 shutout over the Pioneers in Game 1 of the doubleheader. Game 2 saw Webster’s offense erupt for 15 runs in a 15-4 victory. In Game 2, senior shortstop Jessica Arcangel went 4 for 4 with 4 RBIs, and sophomore first baseman Taylor Gibbs hit her first home run of the season. Arcangel has recorded 8 RBIs in her last eight games.
“I’ve been working on getting good pitches to hit, being more aggressive in the count and not really waiting for the perfect pitch,” Arcangel said. “If there’s a first pitch that I see and I like it, I just go for it. … We were hitting the ball. We had good defense. Our pitchers did really well this weekend, too. I think all of that combined is why we’ve been playing so well.”
The doubleheader sweep of Grinnell brought Webster’s overall record to 8-5 and came after a 5-2 stretch during the Rebel Spring Games in Kissimmee, Fla., on March 8-12. Before the trip to Florida began, Webster’s record sat at 1-3.
On March 8, the Gorloks toppled Beloit College (Wis.) 4-2. Freshman pitcher Rachel Franck received the win in her first collegiate start.
Later in the day, Webster shut out Thomas More College (Ky.) 7-0. In that contest, Thompson struck out six batters in 7 innings of work.
“The Florida trip went well,” coach Chris Eaton said. “I think the biggest thing for us was that a lot of people got to contribute. So it wasn’t just a certain few. A lot of players got to play, and a lot of players did well. It’s going to help us later on down the line.”
Franck started Webster’s first game on March 9 against Catholic University of America (D.C.). Franck, in her second collegiate start, threw a no-hitter against the Cardinals as Webster came from behind to walk off 2-1 (for more on Franck’s no hitter and the trip to Florida, read “The Sporting Insider” here).
Another come-from-behind win was in the cards for the Gorloks the next day. After a 5-0 win over Transylvania University (Ky.), Webster trailed 8-1 after 3 1/2 innings against College of Mount St. Joseph (MSJ) (Ohio). The Gorloks managed to tie the game with the aid of a four-run bottom of the seventh.
Junior outfielder Molly Muntz’s single brought home three runners on an error by the Lions’ center fielder. After allowing a run in the top of the eighth, Webster once again tacked on the tying run by a groundout from Arcangel. In the bottom of the ninth, junior infielder Kelley Bridgmon’s sacrifice fly gave the Gorloks the 10-9 victory in the see-saw affair.
Arcangel said a game such as the one against MSJ shows the heart the softball team has.
“One of the biggest strengths of this team is that we never get down on ourselves,” Arcangel said. “We pick each other up. We gel really well on the field. … We could have just given up, but we didn’t. We knew we were better than that team and decided to pick each other up. We scored those runs to beat them.
“In that game, everyone had a part in that win. It took every single person on our team to come back from behind and beat that team.”
Eaton said the come-from-behind victory is something the Gorloks will hopefully use later on in the season.
“We try to preach to them, ‘Just one run at a time. Keep fighting the whole way,’” Eaton said. “It was pretty early when we got down. We just let them know there’s a lot of game left. They just kept fighting and fighting and coming back, and it was awesome to see.”
Webster ended its stint in Kissimmee with a shut-out loss to Washington College (Md.) 4-0. In Webster’s last eight games, Thompson has hurled three shutouts from the circle — which includes her 18-strikeout performance against Grinnell and an 11-strikeout day against Transylvania. She said her success can be attributed to her teammates on the field with her.
“I couldn’t have good games without them batting and scoring and running the bases and scoring and doing everything,” Thompson said. “I can only do so much as a pitcher. … Having them help me is more than anything I could ask.”
Arcangel said the team gained a dramatic boost in confidence after the Florida trip.
“Nobody knew exactly how we were going to do in Florida because we have so many new girls,” Arcangel said. “So, we really were playing with a completely different team for the most part from last year. Nobody really knew what to expect. Our trip to Florida was very successful, and I think it did a lot for our confidence and the way that we played as a team.”
The Gorloks will continue their homestand by hosting the Webster Softball Classic at Blackburn Park on March 23 and 24. On Saturday, March 23, Webster will take on Millikin University (Ill.) at noon and Iowa Wesleyan College at 4 p.m. The Gorloks will then take on University of Wisconsin-Platteville in a doubleheader starting 4 p.m. on Monday, March 25 at Blackburn Park.
Eaton said the team needs to focus on bringing in baserunners and will hopefully begin practicing outdoors more often, which should help the defense. He said the Gorloks had only practiced outdoors once this season prior to the Florida games.
Arcangel said the team needs to work on eliminating the opposition’s big innings as the season carries on.
“We’re still getting into the groove, especially since we’ve had one practice outside,” Arcangel said. “It’s still early in the season, and I think we’ll hit our stride pretty soon here.”