Softball team ready for Runnin’ Bulldog Classic

Sean Hastings, Sports Editor


Eastern softball coach Kim Schuette called last weekends’s games against Louisiana fun to watch for players, coaches, announcers and fans.

The Panthers ended up losing both games to the Ragin’ Cajuns 2-1 and 14-10 in nine innings. The second game was filled with lead changes and comebacks.

Eastern started the game with a lead and lost it in the fourth inning. Louisiana held the lead until Eastern tied it in the seventh and eventually Louisiana scored four in the ninth to win.

Schuette sees the Panthers ending up on the winning side of games like that in the future.

“I think this 2018 Eastern team, I think we have the ability to win some of those no matter our opponent,” she said. “So, are we excited that we didn’t win those two and came back with three losses? No, but we put on a good showing.”

She said the comment after the game was “where is Eastern Illinois and who is this team?”

“That’s a nice compliment and that’s what this team is out to do, so that is exciting,” Schuette said.

The Panthers have five games lined up this weekend at the Runnin’ Bulldog Tournament in Boiling Springs, NC.

Eastern squares off against Creighton and Western Illinois on Friday, Gardner-Webb and Western Carolina on Saturday and Western Illinois again on Sunday.

Eastern was pegged to finish fourth in the OVC this season after a fourth-place finish in 2017. The Panthers received three first place votes, which was the second-most among OVC teams as Jacksonville State ran away with 15.

OVC play does not start till March 24 for the Panthers, but Schuette said that just as the Panthers are paying attention to other teams, the rest of the OVC is doing the same.

“The more that we make (other teams) have nightmares, the better I feel,” Schuette said. “It was a nice compliment to get some first place votes. Whenever teams are talking about you, that’s a good thing.”

Schuette was able to rely on more than just seniors Jessica Wireman and Michelle Rogers to pitch last weekend.

Senior Tori Johnson saw some action in the circle, freshman Valerie Thompson pitched for the first time in her Eastern career and sophomore McKenna Coffman pitched as well.

Having three other pitchers capable of putting some innings together gives Wireman and Rogers rest when they need it, since they have pitched a bulk of the innings over the last three years.

“The beginning of the season, the first half especially, is opportunity for us to make sure our pitching staff is healthy and has some innings,” Schuette said. “…I think McKenna, Tori and Valerie can contribute to our success.”

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