After a crazy weekend of schedule changes due to weather, the Lawrence University softball team was back in action on Tuesday, April 10, as they headed down to Lake Forest for a doubleheader.
This was the conference opener for the Lady Vikings after their games against Beloit were postponed. The conference games are what really counts, as junior Madeline MacLean described, “These games hold more weight. They are more important, so the pressure is on. We played 16 non-conference games. Those games are our opportunities to work out the kinks and figure out how to play well with each other. They play the role of major learning opportunities. We, of course, always want to win and play to win. However, conference games are where that result matters most. Our conference is extremely competitive and we have to continually play our absolute best games. So they hold a lot more weight. However, that factor doesn’t have an impact on the team’s mentality and ‘get after it’ complex. We always come to play and to win. We won’t let the weight of these games negatively impact our performance. If anything, it fuels our fire under the desire to win. Starting conference play just means we need to keep our nose to the grindstone and continue playing our game at our level. Expect great things.”
Lawrence got off to a good start in the first game taking a 2-0 lead in the third inning; however, the sixth inning was costly as they gave up five runs and went on to lose the game 6-2. Sophomore Maria Reiter was a perfect 3-3 during the game. MacLean pitched 5.1 innings for the Lady Vikes, giving up eight hits, walking two and striking out five. In the second game, Lawrence tied up the game at one run each in the third inning but once again they struggled in the sixth inning. Lake Forest scored two runs and won the game 3-1. Sophomore Amanda Karnatz went 2-2 with a double and two stolen bases and sophomore Emilia Jackson allowed only one earned run, pitching six innings in the game.
The weather has not been kind, which is extremely challenging for the players as they try to balance demands of many games in a row with the academic rigor of Lawrence. “This is actually a funny concept,” said MacLean, “As you know, school here is hard and rigorous and demanding. It is hard enough to manage school around a normal season, let— alone an unpredictable season. When games get cancelled and rescheduled, it proves to be more difficult to stay on track. However, staying on top of things and continuing good communication is key. The professors here are amazing when it comes to being flexible with our schedules and helping us stay on track for school. For example, Professor Beth De Stasio met with me outside of my lab time to go over the pre-lab lecture and other material when I had to miss my first lab class for a doubleheader. Being appreciative of those things is extremely important. I am heavily involved with various things on campus, and I find that communicating early and often is a big life saver. Other than that, we are just mentally preparing to play a lot of games in a row in order to fit them all in within the regular season slot.”
With the two losses, Lawrence fell to 6-12 on the season and now have a 0-2 record in Midwest Conference play. However, there are still many more games to play. MacLean has a positive outlook on the start of the season with the young team saying, “My personal experience with this term has been painful, yet exciting. I have been struggling with a nerve injury for the last few months, so the season has been an interesting battle. It doesn’t help that I had a terrible fever for our home opener. However, that simply means that it can only get better from here. While the pain has shown no potential of going away, the sickness has faded with time. There is a lot of season left, and I am just trying to take it one game at a time. The team has a lot of potential this year. We were able to work really well together in Florida and during the first few games of our regular season. Everyone has excelled at one point or another and that is amazing to see. We look forward to the rest of the season.”
The Lady Vikes will continue their quest for a berth in the conference tournament as they play host to Knox College on Saturday, April 14, and Illinois College on Sunday, April 15. The team has lofty goals for their play as MacLean added, “I am simply trying to stay as healthy as possible. There are a lot of ‘uncontrollables’ in the game of softball, but a couple things we can all control are our attitude and work ethic. We, as a team, are tightening up our defense, preventing errors as much as possible and really working on our confidence going up to the plate. I play my part in this by analyzing my weak points and constantly working to better them. Accuracy and strategy is a daily conversation between my catcher and I, as we attempt to make the most out of our ability to control how we throw to the other team. This goes hand in hand with the execution of quality at-bats. These are the details that we can control. And in the end, that is our goal. That is what will get us to the Midwest Conference Tournament for post-season play. It has been a while since we have made it to playoffs, so that of course is the ultimate goal.”