The University of Memphis softball team (21-23, 3-9 American Athletic Conference) lost their second straight conference series, this time against the Wichita State Shockers (26-19, 7-5 AAC). The Tigers were painfully swept and were outscored 33-10 in the during the homestand.
Tigers’ comeback efforts wasted
The team played April 2. When the first game reached the top of the seventh inning, Wichita had a 3-2 lead and had seemingly ridden their three-run start to the game. With the Tigers needing a hero, RF Gracie Morton stepped up the plate and, with SS Samantha Ibison, hit a single to score her.
The Tigers’ run meant the teams would be going into extra innings, and no team seemingly had the upper hand.
That changed when the Shockers came to bat and couldn’t seem to make a bad play. Not only were they getting help from repeated walks from Memphis’ pitchers, but they also were making good contact with their strikes.
They scored seven runs in the inning, and when the Tigers couldn’t match that hitting output, the Shockers got the first win of the series 10-3.
Shockers capitalize on quick start
When the second game of the doubleheader started, Wichita kept their hot offensive streak going and scored five runs in the first two innings.
Even with the Tigers outhitting the Shockers 10-9, they couldn’t match their scoring and lost the game 8-4.
LF Baylee Smith hit a home run in the bottom of the fifth inning that brought some much-needed life to her team. She hit another homer in the final game of the series. She leads the team in home runs with seven.
UofM head coach Natalie Poole spoke on her team’s offense after Smith’s home run and said she believes her team can get hits.
“It felt good to see her have that success,” Poole said. “This weekend I’ve been pleased with what we’ve been doing at the plate. I think that overall, we’ve been putting up enough runs to win games. We have a chance to be in the ball games. We’re just beating ourselves at this point.”
Double-digit walks seal the Tigers’ fate
After a day to reflect on the first two losses of the series, the Tigers looked motivated to get their first victory against the Shockers. During pre-game introductions, players were constantly motivating one another and sharing laughs. But when the game started, it was a different story.
Mariah Nichols got the start at pitcher, but in just 0.1 innings, she’d seen six batters and walked five of them while allowing five runs. She was then shortly replaced by Bayleigh Wisher who played the next 2.1 innings and had five walks and allowed six runs of her own.
When it was all said and done, the Tigers played four pitchers in Sunday’s game and allowed 15 runs, which ended the game 15-3 in the fifth inning. They all combined for 13 walks as well.
Following the game, Poole passionately spoke to her team about being better with pitching and reiterated that same message when she spoke with the media.
“No matter what, no number of walks that high is acceptable,” Poole said. “It just causes problems. It causes problems for us to keep them from scoring those runs.”
In no uncertain terms, this was just an all-around rough weekend for Memphis. They had their struggles in conference play, but this series with the Shockers reiterated their biggest problem: pitching.
To Poole’s and her coaching staff’s credit, they’ve done their best to put the best players they can at the mound, but it just seems no one has been able to step up. No team can win a game when they allow 13 walks even if they play perfect defense.
The Houston Cougars (29-15) are coming to town this weekend and are currently on a three-game win streak. An upset isn’t an impossibility for the Tigers, but for that to happen, they have to get more consistent pitching.