Softball looks to end slow start in Mobile, Alabama

Grant Cohen

While the Shockers’ first three losses of the season came from ranked teams two weeks ago, the Wichita State softball team lost three out of five games in Las Vegas last week and started out the season with a 4-6 record.

The Shockers fell in slumps and did not play up to their full potential last weekend, head coach, Kristi Bredbenner said.

“Oregon State was a game where we had a chance to pull out,” Bredbenner said. “We pitched well and had chances to score. With Hawaii and Cal State Northridge, we didn’t have any facet of our game. We did not hit and pitch well, and when you give up over eight runs, you’re not going to win very many games.”

Wichita State will look to bounce back as they travel to Mobile, Alabama, for the South Alabama Invitational starting Friday. The Shockers will open up with Dartmouth on Friday, then match up with Bowling Green and South Alabama on Saturday, followed by Bowling Green again Sunday.

In the Shockers’ first 10 games, Paige Luellen and Kelli Spring have led Wichita State at the plate, hitting .333 percent each. Luellen leads WSU with 13 RBIs, while Spring has scored seven runs for the Shockers to go along with 10 hits.

Liz Broyles hit both of her home runs in Las Vegas, with one coming in the San Jose State matchup and the other against Oregon State. Broyles has added six hits to go along with eight RBI’s already this season.

“If one person doesn’t get it done [at the plate], there are people behind us that will step up and get those hits for our team,” Luellen said.

With the pitching rotation yet to be decided, Kelsey Sterneker has given the Shockers depth at that position. Sterneker, likely to start in one of the games, has posted one save, three strikeouts and has an earned run average of 3.82 in four games played.

“This year I’ve been trying to get into that [starting] lineup,” Sterneker said. “Just like last week, I’m going to mix up my pitches and trust my defense behind me [for this week’s games].”

An injury to Laurie Ann Derrico, who is questionable after an ankle injury during Wednesday’s practice, and early season slumps have been the cause of this rocky start, according to Bredbenner.

There is still plenty of time, however, for the Shockers to build an impressive nonconference resumé for an NCAA tournament bid in May.

“I’ll take a slump at the beginning of the year, rather than at the end,” Bredbenner said. “If we can get a couple of people to start stepping up and building some momentum, everyone around them is going to start feeling better too.”

Dartmouth (0-0): Noon Friday

Dartmouth will open up their 2016 season in a matchup with the Shockers. The Big Green finished at the top of the Ivy League last season with an 31-19 overall record and an 18-2 record in league play.

Making an NCAA tournament appearance in 2015, Dartmouth lost both of their games in regional play and will look to make a repeat appearance this season. The Ivy League champions return four players who were selected to All-Conference Teams, including Player of the Year Katie McEachern.

The senior shortstop batted .447 behind the plate while hitting 10 home runs to go along with 51 hits in 2015.

Catcher Karen Chew is Dartmouth’s other returning first team Ivy League member. Chew hit seven home runs while hitting .316 last season.

A win Friday would make the Shocker’s non-conference resumé look even better.

Bowling Green (3-5): 12:15 p.m. Saturday, 10 a.m. Sunday

The Shockers will play the Talons twice this weekend. Bowling Green has had a rocky start to their season, sitting with a 3-5 record. Bowling Green uses its offense to help them win games, hitting .295 as a team.

Marissa Shook leads the charge, hitting .455 while hitting four home runs with nine RBI’s. Hayley Shrock also provides Bowling Green with some offensive firepower, hitting .444 with 12 hits and two RBI’s

Four of the Talon’s losses have come when they have scored five runs or less. The only exception came from their most recent loss against MVC rival, Bradley, in a 8-9 defeat.

Wichita State’s chances are much greater of sweeping the season series with Bowling Green if they can keep the Talons from scoring as often as they like.

South Alabama (6-3): 4:15 p.m. Saturday

The Jaguars are continuing to have another strong start as they look to make another NCAA tournament appearance. South Alabama went 2-2 in Regional play before falling short twice to College World Series qualifier, Auburn.

A reason for that success has been with the clutch hitting of Emily Messer. Messer is hitting .657 and added 23 hits in the Jaguar’s first nine games of the season.

South Alabama also has some strong pitchers to go along with their team batting average of .312.

Devin Brown has struck out 48 batters in five games played, forcing her batters to hit .141. Destin Vicknair provides the Jaguars with strong pitching as well, striking out 21 batters while having an earned run average of 1.27.

A battle of both teams with strong pitching will make this matchup a low scoring game.