The Webster University softball team recorded 2 outs against its opponent, Millikin University (Ill.), in the top of the first inning on Saturday, March 23 at Blackburn Park. But that’s as far as the game progressed.
Though the sky was sunny, the Millikin-Webster game was canceled because a Millikin assistant coach claimed the mound was too close. The regulation distance from the center of the pitching circle to home plate in the NCAA is 43 feet, according to the International Softball Federation. Umpires did not take an official measurement, but told the coaches they felt it was about three feet too close.
“It was a little bit close, but we don’t have the power really to move it, seeing as the park is owned by the city of Webster Groves,” Webster coach Chris Eaton said. “There’s nobody here to move it on the weekends.
“I just told (Millikin), ‘We’re both at the same advantage or disadvantage, however you want to look at it.’ They drove all this way; they might as well play.”
A post from Millikin’s athletics website at 5 p.m. on March 23 said, “At the start of the Millikin game with Webster, it was discovered that the pitching mound was not at the regulation distance. Game officials were not able to move the mound back to its proper distance, so the game was not played and called a no-contest.”
Iowa Wesleyan College was scheduled to play Webster at 4 p.m. after Iowa Wesleyan’s contest with Millikin. As Millikin left, Webster and Iowa Wesleyan agreed to play a doubleheader.
In Game 1, Webster fell on the wrong side of a pitchers’ duel. Senior pitcher Trisha Thompson surrendered 3 hits in 7 innings, but one managed to find its way over the fence. Iowa Wesleyan center fielder Tory Beaver took Thompson deep in the top of the sixth inning to put the Tigers up 1-0. Webster hit four singles against Iowa Wesleyan pitcher Sonja Holmes. Thompson went all 7 innings in the loss as she struck out 9 batters.
After the shutout loss, Webster went back to work in Game 2. Sophomore first baseman Taylor Gibbs hit a solo home run, her second of the season, to put the Gorloks on top in the bottom of the second. Webster took that momentum and didn’t look back.
Still in the bottom of the second, senior third baseman Kayla Mahoney stepped up to the plate with junior infielder Kelley Bridgmon on base. Mahoney launched her first home run of 2013 to put the Gorloks up 3-0.
“It felt good,” Mahoney said. “I went up there, and I knew (Bridgmon was on base). Since we had two outs, I knew we had to bring (her) in to get us ahead.”
Webster took advantage of three Iowa Wesleyan errors to put up three more runs on the board in the bottom of the third, including an RBI groundout by Gibbs. The 6-0 lead was kept safe by freshman pitcher Rachel Franck, who went 5 shutout innings with 1 hit and 4 strikeouts. Eaton said Franck was taken out of the game because her arm felt sore.
Thompson came into the game to pitch 2 shutout innings and struck out 4. Her 13 strikeouts on the day gave her 73 for the year, placing her first in the St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference in that category. Franck earned the win — her fifth of the year versus zero losses — and lowered her ERA to a conference-best 0.49.
“Rachel — for being a freshman — is stepping up,” Eaton said. “Her arm is hurting her a little bit, so that’s why we got her out at the end. Especially for her arm hurting, she pitched really well.”
Mahoney said the offensive outburst was important for the team after being held off the board in Game 1.
“We always have one bad inning, and it’s nice to eliminate that inning and start off strong and not start off too weak,” Mahoney said.
Webster’s doubleheader against the University of Wisconsin-Platteville on Monday, March 25 was canceled due to the snowstorm the day before. Next up for Webster is the start of SLIAC contests. Webster will host a doubleheader against Eureka College (Ill.) (5-6 overall) on Friday, March 29 at 4 p.m. The Gorloks will head to Westminster College in Fulton, Mo., on Saturday, March 30 at 1 p.m. for a doubleheader.
The Gorloks will then take on Blackburn College (Ill.) — who is 9-2 at press time — in a doubleheader on Tuesday, April 2 at 5 p.m. at Blackburn Park.
Eaton said the weather may have canceled games against nonconference opponents, but the team’s focus is on the SLIAC opponents ahead.
“We just tell them to try to worry about what we’re doing today,” Eaton said. “The important thing for us, though, is we start conference games (March 29). That’s what we’ve been playing for — getting ready for conference season. That’s the main focus is trying to get ready for … Friday (March 29) next week for our first conference games.”