Story by Mark McFarland, Sports Editor
The Racers softball team will have a week of practice and zero games before heading into their final chance to make the OVC Tournament.
Murray State currently sits in ninth place in the OVC after a weekend series at home against UT Martin. Originally, the series was scheduled for three games, but last weekend’s storm canceled the second game of the series. Although the Racers were able to win both games played, it could have been helpful for their place in the standings if they would have played all three.
Head Coach Kara Amundson said it was frustrating to see how the final day of the series played out but also said it is nothing the team can control.
“It’s kind of like we can’t be too mad because we won two games that we wanted to win, but at the same time, when other teams get their games in and they do the same thing that you’re doing, for this whole thing all of the sudden it makes next week all the more important,” Amundson said.
Despite dealing with the cancellation, Amundson said the girls were able to take care of business in the games they did play and were able to control what they could control.
The teams sitting above the Racers are UT Martin (12-11) in the sixth and final spot in the OVC, Belmont (11-13) behind them and Morehead State (10-12). Belmont took care of business, winning its series two games to three and Morehead State was swept by the fifth place Tennessee Tech. The Racers are 10-13 in the OVC and are only a couple of games behind UT Martin. Amundson said she has been telling her team they will be a tough team to beat if they can just get into the tournament.
Murray State has shown it is able to play with the best teams in the league by taking two games on the road from third place Eastern Illinois, taking one game from first place Jacksonville State and coming up one run short in both meetings against second place Eastern Kentucky. Amundson praised her team and said they can play with some of the better teams, which gives her confidence in how they will finish the season.
“I think we are starting to see the kind of softball out of this team that we’ve wanted to see all year long,” Amundson said. “If you’re going to do it at any time, you want to do it at the end of the year.”
Last season the Racers finished with a conference record of 20-7 and earned the No. 3 seed in the OVC Tournament, eventually losing to Tennessee Tech, who won the tournament, and to Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, who finished second. This season, Murray State has faced greater adversity. The Racers have had three games canceled and have played some softball Amundson said they are not proud of.
Amundson said the adversity of struggling during the season has helped the girls get fired up for the last week of the season.
“They are well aware of the scenario, I don’t have to say a word to them about it,” Amundson said.
This week is one of the few times the Racers will not be playing any games during the week before a weekend series. Amundson said she did it purposefully due to the stresses of finals and classwork as the semester comes to a close. She gave the team the day off on Monday and said Tuesday they will be right back at it to prepare for the big weekend series at Austin Peay State.
Austin Peay currently sits in 11th place out of 12 teams with a 4-20 conference record. The Lady Govs have been near the bottom of the OVC all season, and Amundson said the team will treat this weekend just like any other weekend series they have played all season.
“I think we need to be competitive and I think we need to treat Austin Peay as if they are Jacksonville State,” Amundson said. “We need to treat them as if they are undefeated, we need to play that level and that intensity.”
Junior pitcher Mason Robinson has led the attack for the Racers’ pitching staff, despite what her record may show. Robinson is 16-14 with a 1.78 earned run average and has held her opponents to a .214 batting average, which leads the team. She also leads the team in innings pitched with 200.1. Amundson has praised Robinson all season long and said the team will continue to rely on her in the circle.
“Mason Robinson has been a bulldog in the circle for us this year,” Amundson said. “Her wins, loss hasn’t necessarily reflected that, but she’s thrown 28 scoreless innings consecutively over the last two weeks, that’s a big deal. So if we can get the job done behind our pitching staff, have them attack the zone, defense do what the defense is capable of doing and getting some hits strung together, I think we’re going be pretty competitive.”
The Racers may need some help getting into the tournament, depending on how they play this weekend at Austin Peay. The OVC Tournament is May 11-14 at Choccolocco Park in Oxford, Alabama.