Softball sweeps Tulsa in home opener


Rachel Rudisill

Sophomore Addison Barnard celebrates after hitting a three-run homer on Apr. 3. Barnard hit five homers during the three game series against Tulsa in Wilkins Stadium.

After 29 straight road games, Wichita State Softball returned to Wilkins Stadium as they took on Tulsa in a three-game series. The Shockers persevered to pick up a clean sweep against the Golden Hurricanes.

“Really we just never gave up,” junior Neleigh Herring said. “We had to battle a couple of times because it was kind of close but we just never gave up in the box. Our pitchers never gave up in the circle. Just to keep pushing, keep doing that kind of thing really helped us get out on top.”

The Shockers struggled to find their footing against Tulsa in game one of the series on Friday, after freshman pitcher Alison Cooper allowed three runs in the top of the first inning, while the Shockers remained scoreless. After 1.2 innings, senior Caitlin Bingham relieved Cooper for the remainder of the game. 

It was not until the bottom of the second that WSU got on the scoreboard, when junior Lauren Mills stepped up to bat and hit a no doubt two-run homer.

“A home run’s a home run whether you intended it or not,” Mills said. “For me, not intentionally doing it is the best way of doing it because you’re not looking for one winner. You’re looking to help your team.”

Following her lead, sophomore Addison Barnard crushed another homer that went straight past left field into the Eck Stadium parking lot.

“It feels good and I take some time to enjoy it but at the end of the day I just move on and start over and do what I can do to score on my teammates,” Barnard said. 

Junior Lauren Mills celebrates after hitting a home-run during the game against Tulsa on April 1st at Wilkins Stadium. (Baswanth Naidu/ The Sunflower)

Barnard’s homer put the Shockers up 4-3, but quickly lost it after the Golden Hurricanes regained the lead at the top of the fifth. 

Mills responded, hitting her second two-run homer of the night. Following Mills was sophomore Jessica Garcia’s solo home run to give WSU the lead. Garcia helped add to the lead by hitting a two-run single. Garcia’s offensive output helped secured the home opener victory for WSU. 

“The difference maker for us today is she’s [Jessica] had some really good adjustments in her batting practices this week and is really starting to hit the ball hard and working through some things,” Head Coach Kristi Bredbenner said. 

On Saturday, the Shockers jumped out in the lead early in the game, only to put themselves in a comeback position after Tulsa scored four runs in the second. 

Senior pitcher Erin McDonald started to shut Tulsa down in the third and only allowed three base runners for the rest of the game. McDonald’s performance helped the Shockers move through the rest of the inning by blowing the game wide open with eight more runs scored. 

Senior Neleigh Herring celebrates after getting an out at first during her matchup against Tulsa on Apr. 3 in Wilkins Stadium. (Rachel Rudisill)

McDonald finished out her performance by throwing a complete game. She had five strikeouts and walked one batter. 

“After the last inning when she was out there she came in and finally said I can feel the difference between guiding and having that command and that’s what we’ve got to continue to keep working towards,” Bredbenner said. 

The Shockers continued to produce offensively throughout the rest of the afternoon and sealed the series with a 13-4 win. 

On Sunday, Barnard took the No. 1 spot in the NCAA softball home run rankings with 18 total on the season.

The Shockers grabbed an early lead, but after the Golden Hurricanes grabbed a quick lead in the fourth (8-7) WSU put in the work to build their winning streak.

The Shockers responded with strong offensive play and scored nine runs in the fifth and  ended the game early with a final score of 15-7. 

“I was a little worried in the fourth because we seemed a little defeated at that point,” Bredbenner said. “You know they just keep getting after it and grinding it and you know just proud of them.”

Up next, the Shockers face No. 6 Oklahoma State on Wednesday at Wilkins Stadium. First pitch is scheduled for 6 p.m.