With only 13 women on the Webster University softball team this year, the players have had to adapt to new defensive positions. The squad has committed 24 errors in 14 games. Sophomore pitcher Rachel Franck addressed areas of struggle for the team.
“I think our weak point is defense and pitching. We have been struggling with those these past few games,” Franck said.
A few players have been affected by injuries, including Franck and senior third baseman Taylor Gibbs. Both are dealing with shoulder trouble. Although no injuries have sidelined any players, Franck and Gibbs are playing through a good amount of pain every day.
Since the fall of 2013, Gibbs has played with a torn labrum and scapular dyskinesis, an abnormal movement of the shoulder blade, in her throwing shoulder. Gibbs said that the injury occurred just from “overuse.” While Gibbs normally plays third base for Webster, Head Coach Chris Eaton has moved her to first base to eliminate the pain of throwing.
“I love playing third base, but it’s becoming more and more difficult to do because of the pain,” Gibbs said.
A year ago, Gibbs led Webster with eight home runs and 25 RBIs, but she has yet to hit a home run this season. She is fifth on the team in batting with a .371 average. In addition to dealing with the pain of throwing, Gibbs also feels the pain at the plate.
“I start dropping my shoulder and popping the ball up because it gets difficult to stay on top of the ball with my shoulder hurting,” Gibbs said.
With the torn labrum and dyskinesis, Gibbs has been advised not to play by her doctors. But with this being her last season, she does not plan to stop playing.
“Since it is my last season, I want to suck it up and play for my team,” Gibbs said. “They chose me to be one of their captains and I don’t want to let them down.”
The Gorloks are 6-8 overall on the season and 2-2 in conference play. One of the team’s strengths so far this season has been the offensive output. Through 14 games, Webster has scored 86 runs, including 30 runs over two games in a double-header against MacMurray College (Ill.) on March 29.
Webster has a team batting average of .340 and an on-base percentage of .404, both good enough to place Webster fourth best in the conference in both categories. Senior catcher Molly Muntz spoke to the team’s offensive performance.
“I would say our hitting is pretty strong at this point, but I think we struggle with being consistent all around,” Muntz said. “Some games we score a lot of runs, but others we will leave a lot of runners on base.”
Franck has also been playing with an injury. She’s played with a stress fracture in her throwing shoulder since last year.
Franck was named to the second team all-conference team last year with her outstanding freshman season offensively and defensively. But her injury has affected the pitching staff and how long she can pitch.
“We have good pitchers, but injuries have hurt us a lot,” Franck explained.
The Webster pitching staff has a team Earned Run Average (ERA) of 6.18. The Gorloks’ pitching has racked up 51 strikeouts while only allowing four home runs.
“With Rachel being hurt, I think it affects (her) pitching, because she’s not able to throw long. But it is nice that we have pitchers that can split innings and come in for one another as we need them,” Muntz said.
Franck has a record of 3-2 through six appearances, and has a 2.86 ERA.
“Consistency and confidence is the key for success going down the stretch of the season,” said Gibbs. “I have seen us play on our best days and the talent is there. We need to just be consistent from start to finish.”
Webster’s next game is Thursday, April 3 against Blackburn College in Carlinville, IL.