Softball taking one-game OVC break


Sean Hastings

The Panthers have been on a hot stretch winning eight out of their first 10 games in OVC play. Tuesday’s game agaisnt Butler will be a one-game OVC break before playing Tennessee-Martin Friday.

JJ Bullock, Softball Reporter

Taking a short break from Ohio Valley Conference play, the Eastern softball team is travelling to Indiana for a single game with a Big East opponent, Butler.

The matchup with Butler comes after a streak of 10 straight conference games for Eastern and will give coach Kim Schuette and her team a chance to face a fresh face and potentially make some changes of their own.

“This is an opportunity to play some more innings, get a few more at-bats and possibly play other lineup combinations,” Schuette said.

Eastern played very well over that 10-game conference stretch, going 8-2 and outscoring their opponents 47-24 over that time. However, the team has been careful not to let their confidence get the best of them.

“We do not talk about streaks and continue to remind each other; not to high, not too low,” Schuette said. “We were bummed that we lost a close one on Sunday, but on the other hand, we have won some close ones too. It was anyone’s game. Each day the sun comes up and brings a new opportunity to improve on 0-0.”

Butler and Eastern mirror each other in many ways, both team sport sub-.500 non-conference records, Eastern (14-14) and Butler (12-16). Neither team lights up the stat sheet on offense; Butler is currently fifth in the Big East with a .284 batting average, while similarly, Eastern is eighth in the Ohio Valley with a .285 batting average. Butler, ranks second to last in its conference with a .380 slugging percentage, while the Panthers are last in that category with a .398 slugging percentage.

Where the Panthers draw a clear advantage in the matchup however, is in its pitching.

Butler’s pitching has been relatively average this season. The Bulldogs have a 4.27 team ERA, a 2.85 opponent batting average and have struck out just 100 batters in 36 games played.

Eastern on the other hand, led by junior aces Jessica Wireman and Michele Rogers, have a team ERA of 2.57, an opponent batting average of .244 and have struck out 215 batters in 38 games played.

Wireman is coming off a weekend where she struck out 27 batters in 16 innings pitched and saw herself climb fifth on the conference leaderboard with 121 strikeouts on the season.

“Wireman is attacking out there right now and throwing pretty well,” Schuette said. “Of course we want strikeouts, but we do not stress on strikeouts. Instead we focus on what we want to make the batter swing at or chase. She is mixing her pitches and doing pretty well being sharp, aggressive and focused.”

Although they rank near the bottom in almost every offensive category, Butler will still be no walk in the park for the Eastern pitching staff if the Bulldogs’ outfield tandem of Sarah Dixon and Jenna Foreman have anything to say about it.

Dixon is the team leader in home runs (4), RBIs (21) and slugging percentage (.563). Foreman on the other hand, has a .373 batting average and is dangerous on the bases, stealing 18 bags in 21 attempts this season.

The game will take place at 5 p.m. Tuesday in Indianapolis.

JJ Bullock can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]