Softball team still struggling in late innings


Sean Hastings

Senior Tori Johnson makes the play at third for the out in Eastern’s loss to Jacksonville State Sunday. Eastern had another late game collapse that led to a loss against Illinios Wednesday on the road.

Sean Hastings, Sports Editor

For the third straight game the Eastern softball team has blown the game in sixth or seventh inning Wednesday. 

The Panthers were hoping to get a little bit of their “fire” back against Illinois Wednesday on the road, but that flame is still out as Eastern found a way to lose the lead late again to lose the game.

Senior Tori Johnson gave the Panthers a 4-2 lead in the top of the sixth inning with two outs, but Illinois piled on three runs off senior Jessica Wireman in the bottom half and held on for a 5-4 win. 

It was a non-conference game, it does not affect Eastern’s OVC standing, so that is not a problem. But, Eastern’s inability to close out games as of late has turned into one. 

It happened against Southern Illinois-Edwardsville April 17, where Eastern lost on back-to-back walk offs in a doubleheader. It happened three days before that against Tennessee-Martin. And it happened twice against Jacksonville State this past weekend. 

“I really don’t think the team is ever worried about not holding onto a lead late in the game,” Johnson said. “Lately, our opponents have just been getting hits at the right time. I think we just need to put up a little more runs late in the game to secure the win instead of letting our opponents stay in the game.”

The offense has been there for the Panthers, scoring 37 runs over their last nine games, which includes all of the late game losses. 

Junior Kayla Bear led the game off with a home run to right field and later drove in the second run of the game. 

Bear said the home run felt like air coming off her bat.

“I was very excited to it over to get us ahead in the game and sending a message to (Illinois) that we are ready,” Bear said. 

And Johnson, who has not seen much playing time this year having just 36 at bats coming into the game, drove in her first two runs of the season.

She said she was trying to be more aggressive at the plate in that at bat.

“It honestly felt amazing to drive those runs in for the team,” said senior Johnson, who will be wrapping up her Eastern softball career in May. “I knew I was in a position to help the team out, so it was just very satisfying to actually follow through with it and have those two runs score.”

Even though Bear and Johnson were both able to knock in two runs, the struggles for senior pitcher Jessica Wireman have continued as she was handed the loss for her third sraight game. 

She has only had two other three-game losing streaks in her career. She gave up five runs, with four of them being earned. 

Sam Acosta drove in the winning run in the bottom of the sixth on an RBI single to score Kiana Sherlund for Illinois, who just tripled to tie the game at four scoring Veronica Ruelius. 

Although the Panthers have lost three in a row, Bear does not want to call it a losing streak. 

“I don’t see it as a losing streak because we are still fighting and keeping these games close,” Bear said. “Our team is strong and we are just waiting for our next games.” 

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