By Alexander Haynes
Success can be hypnotic, a process of repetition. Success can also be wildly emotional, buried in tentative luck and ‘fun’ late-game wins. Success can also be both – hypnotically established by process and athletes who simply love what they are doing. The Texas State softball team are currently embellishing this latter pattern after a series of wild double-headers against a variety of opponents. No matter who the opponent was, the Bobcats roster won the same way all the while ensuring their winning mentality was distinctly unique, dare to call it relaxed and fun.
Starting with Poise
Friday’s first opponent, the Columbia Lions, were playing in their first game of the season. Meagan King received the nod for the starting slot, and unfortunately gave the Lions their first score of the season. A lead-off walk turned into a two-run homerun off the bat of Maria Pagane. But that would be all, as a base running error created a debilitating third out.
King, however, was struggling in closing the next inning and was replaced in the third by Krista Jacobs. An intriguing note on the evolution of the Bobcats pitching staff is their consistency in learning the game. Head coach Ricci Woodard seems to be taking an approach of grooming young pitchers in high pressure situations early, willing to use three pitchers in a game no matter the situation.
Jacobs is the only other veteran pitcher on the team but has not been displaying brevity in her pitching. A quick strike out, ground out, and fly out showed signs of change. Then, a walk-off in the top of four brought about the Lions bunting, a troublesome spot for the Bobcats infield. Chaos ensued, and Jacobs was pulled in favor of McKenna Fryar to strike out the troublesome last batter.
The Lions would stay silent for the remnant of the afternoon as Fryar went the remaining 3.1 innings allowing only one hit and two walks. Behind Hailey MacKay netting two walks, and Bailee Carter and Tara Oltmann producing two RBIs, the Bobcats produced an efficient 6-2 victory.
The night game against Florida Atlantic University began with a mind-numbing twist; Randi Rupp took the mound and allowed FAU batter Emily Lochten to sail a homerun deep center. The rest of the inning would operate smoothly, but the Owls were prepared to challenge Rupp.
Lochten displayed power with a homerun in the bottom of the third. Other than Lochten, the Owls had trouble advancing, only establishing base chaos on infield errors. Rupp chased down two batters with fire, then forced a fly out in a two-pitch at bat, staying composed in the pressure of an early letdown.
Ultimately, the game was a pattern of following up on errors, which the Owls were unable to capitulate themselves to success with early on. By contrast, the Bobcats did not waste those opportunities. Sierra Steimiel and Christiana McDowell both reached third and second respectively after a fumbled bunt. Owls pitcher Tatum Buckley was under pressure and MacKay capitalized by taking a 3-2 count over the left field wall, providing a 3-2 lead the Bobcats would not relinquish. The same trio of batters would extend the lead 5-2 in the fifth, simply out-powering the Owls. The 9-4 win may have been Rupp’s longest outing (138 pitches), but even against a team that had obviously scouted well, she continued a display of rare, fierce, and precise determination in a flexible day pitching.
Finishing the Details
Saturday’s double header against the Tulsa Golden Hurricane began as an eerie repeat of two innings against FAU – Steimel and McDowell got on base, and MacKay gave them a ride home with a atmospheric homerun. The one at-bat is reminiscent of the entire season for MacKay, who is now batting with a .929 SLG while leading the team in 18 hits,
15 RBIs, and nine walks. Through the first few weeks of the season, her bat is a versatile weapon to produce scoring through patience or power – a skill set that can deter even the most poised pitcher.
Shelby Estocado would net the single run for Tulsa, sending a hurricane homerun off Rupp in the second. After that, however, Rupp adjusted and did not provide a hint of success for anyone on Tulsa. She completed another game, allowing a total of two hits while striking out nine of 22 batters in what may have been her most efficient outing yet.
The only downside to the 6-1 victory was the runs could have been more. The Bobcats produced 10 hits, but still managed to leave nine on base. Leaving a notation on six runs seems a disservice, but there is a necessity to finish every single detail in a sport which can twist with disastrous urgency.
The late game against Dartmouth began slowly. Rupp finished her seven batters with three strikeouts. Fryar arrived in the third to finish the game, completing 4.2 innings in what is becoming a welcoming start to the season for the freshman. Despite being in year one, Fryar is showing an eagerness to learn, showing an almost academic appearance to her pitching. She struck out six of 19 batters, allowing only three hits and one walk.
Fryar needed to provide hope and opportunity to the Bobcats lineup, which was defectively tired as even bunts lacked their typical quality. McDowell was the most successful on the day, walking twice and landing one hit. Her first walk resulted in a steal, and then a trip home for the first score in the sixth inning.
That single run by McDowell was essential to establishing momentum; One inning later, the Bobcats typical bats would come alive with two more runs. Naturally, McDowell had one more walk and steal, leaving a verbose note for the Bobcats to follow up on the next day.
Closing on Columbia
The Bobcats came out Sunday morning ready to score in makeup for the batters left on base from Saturday. Steimel started the leadoff walk, followed by McDowell getting on base after being plunked. The chaos completely unfolded for Columbia as the afore mentioned batters stole and MacKay walk. Tara Oltmann put a double into right field, and the rest is history. Two runs turned into three, and three into five as the Bobcats got their scoring done in the first inning. Come the second, Oltmann would produce another RBI and then score herself off a wild pitch. By the end of the day, the Bobcats would produce 10 bookended runs.
Jacobs received the start, quickly getting her first 10 batters out (the only extra batter seen was due to a fielding error in the first). However, in the fourth a string of simple hits allowed the Lions to net three frustrating runs. Jacobs improved on the day, but the bleeding only stopped once Jordan Townsend made a base-running error. Fryar quietly worked her way through two innings, and Rupp would put the finishing note on a perfect record in Florida as the Bobcats rose to 11-4 on the season.
The Bobcats will play the University of Texas San Antonio Roadrunners in San Antonio on Wednesday night at 6 p.m. and next Friday they will travel to College Station for a test at the Texas A&M Invite.
Featured image by Marina Bustillo-Mendoza.