Photo by Gerald Castillo
Bobcats wear down Warhawks, advance in Sun Belt tournament
During Texas State’s road trip to South Alabama on March 15-17, head coach Ricci Woodard was gifted by one of the team’s athletic trainers with a pair of socks with sharks printed on them.
The Bobcats won the final game of the trip, 12-2, in five innings. Then they won the next eight games. The players credited the sharks.
“And so, (the players have) just kind of carried on and on with that and we just decided we wanted to be sharks instead of goldfish along the way,” Woodard said.
The sharks were present again at No. 4-seeded Texas State’s game against No. 8-seeded Louisiana-Monroe late Wednesday night inside Bobcat Softball Stadium in the Sun Belt Conference Softball Championship. Blue, orange and white inflatable sharks filled the host’s dugout. The players waved them around during each of the team’s at-bats.
The sea creatures worked their magic again, as the Bobcats shut out the Warhawks, 3-0.
“I thought we did a good job of coming right out and putting ourselves in a good spot, from the first pitch to right on through the first inning of the ball game,” Woodard said. “I was fairly pleased with how we started and how we finished that ball game.”
Though the matchup was originally scheduled to begin at 5:30 p.m., the first pitch was not thrown until 9:35 p.m. due to weather delays. Woodard was a little worried the wait would cause her team to start slow. The players proved her wrong.
Junior second baseman Bailee Carter led off in the first inning with a deep double to left field that hit the fence. Junior center fielder Christiana McDowell used a sacrifice bunt to push Carter to third. Sophomore shortstop Tara Oltmann brought her across in the next at-bat with a fielder’s choice to second base.
“We put (Carter) at the top of the lineup the other day. It's because she’s been having some good, quality at-bats for us,” Woodard said. “I think that kind of just got us rolling from the get-go tonight.”
Neither team scored in the second or third inning but ULM came close to tying the game in the fourth.
After junior starting pitcher Dalilah Barrera allowed her fourth walk of the game one out into the frame, Woodard sent junior right hander Meagan King into the circle in relief. King gave up a single against her first batter and a fielding error by junior third baseman Hailey MacKay loaded the bases for the visitors with just one out.
But the Warhawks weren’t able to capitalize. Texas State snagged a foul out in the next at-bat and King retired the side with a strikeout. Freshman designated player Samara Lagway used an RBI single in the bottom of the inning to extend the Bobcats’ lead to 2-0. ULM had just one hit the rest of the way.
MacKay made up for her error in the sixth with a single to score McDowell, adding an insurance run and sealing the team’s victory at 3-0.
“Usually, if the middle of our lineup is swinging the bats well, then I know it’s probably going to be a pretty good day for us,” Woodard said. “For us, it’s always if we’re going to swing the bats aggressively and if we’re going to swing at good pitches. I thought we started out the ball game right from the get-go doing that.”
Lagway and MacKay both went 1-3 at the plate, each picking up an RBI. Barrera lasted 3.1 innings without giving up a hit or run and striking out four. King received the win, stuffing ULM without a score on two hits and striking out two in 3.2 innings of work.
With the win, the Bobcats (29-23, 16-10 Sun Belt) were scheduled to face No. 1-seeded Louisiana (47-4, 25-0) inside Bobcat Ballpark on Thursday at 12:30 p.m. Woodard expects the sharks to return to the dugout. Texas State will need a little luck.
“We’re hoping that we keep our shark attack,” Woodard said. “We know with (Louisiana), we have to attack. We know they’re going to come out aggressive, we know they do a lot of things well … And so, we already know that against ULL, you can’t make mistakes if you want to win a ball game.”