The softball team bounced back from a rough week to sweep conference leaders Southern Illinois University Edwardsville Saturday at Racer Field. Head Coach Kara Amundson was pleased with her team’s response to adversity.
“It was a great turnaround for us from the weekend before,” Amundson said. “This is the second time this year that we’ve swept the team that was No. 1 in the conference at the time we played them, both of them on our home field here.”
Junior Alexa Becker got the Racers off to a hot start in the first inning of game one when she hit her seventh home run of the season. SIUE quickly responded, however, tying the game on an error.
In the fifth inning, with freshman Cayla Levis and junior Mo Ramsey on first and third, respectively, they completed a double steal for the Racers’ second run. Moments later, Becker hit her second home run of the game, pushing the lead out 4-1.
SIUE came back in the sixth with a three-run spurt of its own, tying the game at four. Neither team could tack on another run until the 10th inning. After SIUE intentionally loaded the bases, senior Leslie Bridges hit a sac fly to right field that allowed Levins to score the winning run, ending the game 5-4.
The second game of the doubleheader was dominated by Murray State. In the third inning, the Racers jumped out to a 4-0 lead. Five Racers had hits in the inning, scoring Levins, Ramsey, Bridges and freshman Jessica Twaddle.
Murray State added two more in the fourth as Becker batted in sophomore Shelbey Miller and then Bridges scored Miller from third. Amundson applauded her team’s efforts against the conference leader after the game.
“SIUE is a team that is very competitive every year,” Amundson said. “We know they are a team that we will have to compete against, and so we have to step up in those situations and that’s exactly what we did.”
The home series finale Sunday was canceled due to inclement weather, but seniors Bridges and Morgan Harrell were honored for their hard work and dedication toward the Racer softball program as planned. Amundson spoke highly of both seniors.
“Morgan is actually a transfer, and I think this year out of all the years she has really stepped into a role where she contributes on a regular basis,” Amundson said. “The catching position is always tough to lose. They run the field very quietly and they work a lot behind the scenes. Morgan is definitely going be tough to replace.”
Amundson also spoke about Bridges, who is the fourth four-year letter winner in program history.
“Leslie is going to be a really tough one to lose both for me personally and for this team as well,” Amundson said. “She’s just an incredible person and when you talk about coaching and why I love to coach it’s because I get to interact with the players and watch them grow. I’m really excited to see where life takes her.”
According to Bridges, the feeling is mutual.
“I’m just so thankful for what these last four years have taught me,” Bridges said. “To play four years and to play under somebody like Coach (Amundson), it’s like crazy to think it’s all coming to an end.”
The Racers traveled to Memphis Wednesday to win 4-3 on the Tigers’ home turf. Their first program win over Memphis came from a two-out seventh inning homerun from Miller.
Racer softball will be back in action Saturday against Southeast Missouri State.
Story by Peter Northcutt, Staff writer