The Leavenworth Times - Leavenworth, KS
  • Missed opportunity: USM softball loses chance at top spot in the conference

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  • The culture has changed for University of Saint Mary softball this season, and the team had a shot to take the lead in the Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference standings Friday, but Ottawa University swept USM, 14-4 and 14-1.
    After the losses, USM kept its fourth-place spot in the standings behind Ottawa, Kansas Wesleyan and Bethany.
    Ottawa claimed a two-game lead in the standings and put USM three games behind.
    "You've got to tip your hat to Ottawa," USM head coach Michael Evans said. "They absolutely got after it. That's what it takes in big conference games like this. We were one game back from first place and they came out and played like that first-place team and we did not play like the second-place team. It's good for us to see that. We still have a long way to go."
    The Braves wasted no time in either game, scoring six runs in the first two innings of game one and tacking on five runs in the top of the first in game two.
    "The biggest difference was the first inning of both games," Evans said. "Ottawa came out, attacked, scored runs and just got us down. We did not respond very well."
    The mercy rule came into play both games, ending each after five innings.
    OU stole three bases in each game and took advantage of those extra bases.
    To start game one, the Braves' lead-off batter singled, stole second and scored on the second batter's double.
    USM senior Steeli Norton forced two groundouts to start the second inning, but an OU player stole second and scored on an error later in the inning.
    "Just lack of focus today," Evans said. "I think that's the best kind of phrase to use about today was it was just a lack of focus. I don't know if it was because of the weather, I don't know if it was because we were intimidated by a first-place team, I don't know if it was a Friday noon game. Whatever, but for some reason we didn't come out and play Saint Mary softball that we really built all year."
    To start game two, OU stole two bases and two batters reached on errors.
    The Saint Mary bats heated up in the fourth and fifth innings of game one. Freshman Emilee Biondo singled in freshman Ashley Laughlin in the fourth.
    Junior Mary Silva scored from third base in the fifth after senior Victoria Toplikar grounded out.
    Junior Rebecca Eatough singled in junior Kim Piatt and freshman Olivia Silvey scored on junior Jessica Saldana's single to make the final score 14-4.
    Toplikar tripled in the first inning of game two to score Norton, but USM didn't score the rest of the game.
    Page 2 of 2 - "You've got to learn something from that game instead of walking out of here feeling sorry for yourself," Evans said.
    USM will take Saturday off before hosting Nebraska Wesleyan at 2 p.m. Sunday for a doubleheader.
    "The reason I gave them the day off is after a game like today, you just need to get away from it," Evans said. "It's not going to do us any good coming in and hitting at eight in the morning for an hour. Just get away from the game for a day."
    USM will return to conference play Tuesday for a home doubleheader at 1 p.m. versus 5-22 Sterling College. On April 12, USM travels to 24-5 Kansas Wesleyan, which is second in the conference.
    "I told them starting Monday, we've got to get back to what we are and that's hard work and discipline," Evans said. "I told them I'd take responsibility for that because I kind of got a little easier on them, I guess you would say, these last couple of weeks because we are getting later in the season, so you've got to take care of your bodies a little bit more. It also kind of shows you that when we take it easy we start turning into a bad team."
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