Earlier game changed season, softball dominating OVC play

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Earlier game changed season, softball dominating OVC play

Senior Kylie Bennett singles up the middle against Austin Peay April 16 at Williams Field.

Senior Kylie Bennett singles up the middle against Austin Peay April 16 at Williams Field.

Sean Hastings

Senior Kylie Bennett singles up the middle against Austin Peay April 16 at Williams Field.

Sean Hastings

Sean Hastings

Senior Kylie Bennett singles up the middle against Austin Peay April 16 at Williams Field.

Sean Hastings, Sports Editor

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A shutout win against Murray State April 3rd at the time may not have seemed like a big deal, but looking back, it is what flipped the Panthers’ season around.

Eastern opened the season strong with a three-game series sweep over Tennessee-Martin, but the Panthers went on to lose their next six OVC games. Eastern had a record of 3-6 in OVC play until game three of the Murray State series.

The Panthers have gone on to win 10 straight games in OVC competition, thanks to dominating pitching performances from sophomore pitchers Jessica Wireman and Michelle Rogers and the hitters getting timely hits.

The Eastern softball team’s long win streak includes a pair of wins against what was the top team in the conference at the time. Eastern handed Eastern Kentucky its first and second losses of the season.

Eastern has recorded six shutouts over the course of this win streak. They are now 13-6 in OVC play, putting them in third place in the conference, behind 21-0 Jacksonville State and 15-5 Eastern Kentucky.

The teams have just two weekends of OVC play left, making this win streak more important than ever. Eastern has been able to all but secure a spot in the tournament at the end of the year.

Only eight teams make it to the tournament. The only problem is, Eastern has played two less games than the rest of the teams. A planned doubleheader with Morehead State was rained out April 10th at Williams Field.

Senior April Markowski has caught fire at the right time, boosting her batting average to .328 during the win streak. She was below .300.

Senior Katie Watson got back to her early season form, getting her batting average back up to .300. Fellow senior Kylie Bennett has continued to be a huge run producer for the Panthers, having driven in 22 runners this season.

Last weekend in two games against Belmont and two against Tennessee State, Watson drove in eight runs. She now has 19 on the season.

Freshman Kayla Bear has been a big threat with lots of speed on the base paths this season for Eastern. She is 16-19 on the season. Bear was 3-3 in stolen bases Sunday against Tennessee State, just one short of tying the record for the all-time stolen bases record for an Eastern freshman.

Wireman and Rogers both struggled over the six game losing streak, but have since been stellar in the circle.

Wireman now holds a 3.40 ERA with a win-loss record of 13-17. She has also struck out 163 batters this season. She had 22 strikeouts in a 12-inning 1-0 win against Eastern Kentucky.

Rogers has dropped her ERA to 4.48 and is just one win away from being at .500. She is 6-7 on the year. Rogers doesn’t get the strikeouts that Wireman gets, but she gets key outs when the Panthers need them, making her a key to the Panthers’ recent success.

Rogers threw a shutout on Sunday against Tennessee State. She also pitched a scoreless inning Saturday against Belmont to close out the game for the Panthers.

The season is winding down and each game is becoming more and more important. If the pitchers can continue to pitch the way they have and the hitters can hit the way they have been lately, the Panthers’ success can continue moving towards the OVC tournament May 11-14.

Sean Hastings can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]