Racer softball is off to a hot start this fall season as the women improved their record to 3-0 with a pair of wins this weekend in Southern Illinois. The Racers took on Southern Illinois University-Carbondale in the first game and defeated them 2-0 then rolled over John A. Logan College in the second 8-1.
SIU is the only Division I team on Murray State’s schedule and Head Coach Kara Amundson knew that her team would have to pick its effort up if it was to battle with higher competition.
“That game was probably the best competition we are going to have throughout this fall,” Amundson said. “They’re the only Division I team we’re playing this fall so we knew that we were going to have to compete a little bit and it was going to be different competition than what we’ve had. We came out with a lot of focus and a lot of confidence.”
The Racers, who lost to the Salukis last season, did not take much time in scoring the eventual game winning run. In the second inning, sophomore Taylor Odom hit Murray State’s first homerun of the season to give the Racers a one run lead. In the fifth, sophomore Cayla Levins led off the frame with a single. Levins was driven in the next at bat by senior Alexa Becker’s double, scoring the second Racer run of the day.
Senior CheyAnne Gaskey started the day on the mound for the Racers as she struck out three and only gave up two hits. Freshman Haven Campbell finished the game by only giving up two hits over the final four innings.
“Our pitchers got behind in the counts a little more than I wanted them to but defensively they came to play and we made some really good plays at good times,” Amundson said. “We scored a couple runs in different situations. It was a 2-0 game so it was a lot of defense and a lot of pitching, but we stayed focus throughout the game and that was something that I liked to see from us at this time of the year.”
Despite the huge win, Amundson was adamant that her team has much more to prove.
“I’m not sure we necessarily proved anything in terms of conference play, I think we have a long ways to go when it comes to that kind of stuff,” Amundson said. “I think what we are proving is that anyone can step in at any given time and we’re proving that we have a very good dynamic on the field in terms of defense. I think it is less proving to other people and more proving to ourselves that we’ve got a lot of talent and we’re working hard in practice and we’re executing relatively well in our games.”
The second game against John A. Logan was not as high profile as the first, but the Racers did what they needed to do to take care of business. Becker led the Racers by going 4-4 at bat with two runs, two RBIs and a double. Murray State ended the day with a 13-1 advantage in hits, translating to an 8-1 victory. Junior J.J. Francis began the game for Murray and allowed no hits, runs or walks in the first three innings. Sophomore Mason Robinson picked up the game in the fourth and allowed only one run.
“We started off a little slower than I wanted to in that game,” Amundson said. “It was obviously some different competition; John A. Logan is a significantly better program than this time last year. I thought they came out wanting to compete. I don’t think we made adjustments as fast as we probably could have and should have, but again on the positive side our pitching came to play. I think J.J. Francis started off that game and I’m not sure she gave up a hit at all. So pitching came to play, the defense came to play, but I think we could have capitalized offensively a little more and earlier than we did.”
The Racers will look to continue their strong start to the season Sunday at noon as they take on Truman State at Racer Field.
“We’ve had a couple days to recoup and get our feet back under us,” Amundson said. “These next four days at practice our job is to work on the things we need to work on and build on the good things that we did. We need to come out and compete in the same way we did this past weekend and just be better this coming Sunday than we were last Sunday.”
Story by Peter Northcutt, Staff writer