Murray State got off to a good start this fall by opening up its fall season with a doubleheader win on Sunday at Racer Field. The Racers squared off against Lake Land, winning the first game 5-2 and the second 20-1.
The 1-0 Racers came off a program-boosting spring season that saw them march all the way to the conference championship game. The team would go on to lose to eventual champion Southern Illinois University Edwardsville 12-1.
“I think the last game we had last year kind of left a little bit of a bitter taste in our mouth,” said Head Coach Kara Amundson. “That was the first time our program has made it to the conference title game and it was very clear to anyone watching that it was not the best game of our year by far. Our returners are really ready to compete this season and get back to that game with a little different results and I think they’re spreading that energy and excitement to our newcomers who are doing it for the first time with us.”
The Racers were slow out of the gates offensively against their first opponent. Although they scored two runs in the first inning, they only managed three more over the course of the game. The Racers held Lake Land to only two runs in the first game.
“We started off a little slow and timid offensively,” Amundson said. “Defensively we came out firing and came out right away ready to play. Offensively it was a little bit of a slow start the whole first game. We scored multiple runs in the first inning then we were kind of quiet throughout the rest of the game.”
Despite their somewhat sluggish offensive performance in game one, the Racers still managed to get hits from nine different players, led by sophomore Maggie Glass who went 1-for-3 with a run, two RBIs and a hit by pitch. Senior pitcher CheyAnne Gaskey picked up the win for Murray State with six strikeouts on the day with three coming in the first inning.
What little rust the Racers showed during the first game was shaken off in the second as they blew past Lake Land 20-1.
“The second game was a much better showing than the first,” Amundson said. “The second game was really telling of the kind of talent we have. We made some really, really good defensive plays. We were relatively clean defensively which is something good to see this early in the season because that’s not always the case.”
Not only were the Racers clean defensively in the second game, they also stood out offensively. Five Murray State players recorded multiple hits, including senior Alexa Becker and Freshman Erika Downey with four hits apiece. Junior pitcher J.J. Francis went four innings for the Racers, giving up only one run, while sophomore Mason Robinson finished the game almost perfectly for Murray State, only giving up one walk in three innings.
Amundson expects the depth that was on display this weekend to continue to shine throughout the fall season.
“We prided ourselves last season on our depth and this year I think we have even more depth than we’ve had in the past,” Amundson said. “At any time offensively, anyone on the team can get it done for us, and same thing defensively. We had a couple players out due to injury this past weekend and people stepped in and got the job done. That’s what is going to make us a better team and a better program this year is that we do have the depth, we do have the better competition in practice this year and we have a great group of girls who are willing to work hard for it.”
The competition does not get easier from here for the Racers as they travel to southern Illinois this weekend to take on Southern Illinois University Carbondale.
The Racers lost to the Salukis last season and look forward to the early season challenge.
“I think this coming weekend is going to be a little bit different for us than this past weekend,” Amundson said. “Our first game is against Carbondale who is a Division I program and they beat us pretty bad last spring. So it is more solid competition than we played this past weekend. They’re going to have to be ready to go from the very first pitch.”
Despite the more impressive opponent, Amundson insists that her message to the team is the same.
“Our main goal is to compete and focus on every pitch and to play every ball and really be in every at bat,” Amundson said. “We have all the talent in the world so if we can do that, the fall is going to be something that is very telling for the spring.”
The Racers will take on the Salukis Sunday at 2 p.m. in Carbondale.
Story by Peter Northcutt, Staff writer