This is it: time for the Lady Builder softball team to show the world what it is made of. It’s conference tournament time, and the women roll into Hillsboro to play the Blue Jays April 30.
By Samantha Gillis
“Everyone takes Tabor for granted because they are consistently at the bottom, but their pitcher leads the conference in strike outs,” said Amber Good, head softball coach. But Rachel Ratcliffe, sophomore pitcher, is a close second with 77.
The team is capable of taking it all according to Good. “If we show up offensively and defensively we have a great chance of ending up on top. We need to play a full seven innings and score every inning, that is when we are really hard to beat,” she said.
Nicole Wilson, junior utility said their strengths going into the conference tournament will lie in their hitting. “Our hitting has really picked up,” she said.
Earlier in the week the Builders split with fifth-ranked Sterling College. Although the Builders led in hits, Sterling pulled ahead right away scoring all four of their runs in the first inning. The second game the Builders shot back scoring first in the first inning, then scoring four more in the fourth and five more in the sixth. Kaylee Hicks, sophomore infielder, went two for three and Monica Sauber, senior utility, went three for five scoring two runs and driving in three RBI’s.
Saturday was senior day for Sauber and Whitney Baker, infielder. The face off against second-ranked Friends University cultivated a deep desire in the women to demolish their rival.
The pressure of playing her last home game wasn’t nearly as motivating as the desire to beat Friends University for Sauber. “It didn’t even really soak in that it was my last home game. I just wanted to win. We all wanted to beat Friends,” she said.
The team came out with a lot of energy to start the double header. “They wanted to play well for Monica and Baker,” said Good.
Unfortunately, the Builders couldn’t get their hits to fall, and the Falcons’ 10 hits earned them five runs.
“We had a few errors defensively, but offensively we didn’t get the bats going to back up our pitchers,” said Good. In the second inning the Falcons loaded the bases with only one out. Ratcliffe, blazed eight pitches past the FU players, striking out two batters. Kayla Berry, freshman outfielder, got up first shooting a hard grounder up the middle, but she was left on when the next two batters got out.
In between the first and second game Sauber and Baker were honored. The team handed them flowers, a gift basket and a signed ball from the team.
The second game was a definite improvement from the first, although the score doesn’t show it. The Builders outhit the Falcons nine to eight while Friends made four errors. Both Hicks and Hillary Hull, sophomore pitcher, went two for three, and Sauber went two for four. Wilson was frustrated with her hitting. “The pitchers weren’t anything special at all, but I couldn’t get a solid hit. Hitting for an out is better than striking out, but being second hole and not getting on base is frustrating,” she said.
In the seventh inning when there were two outs two runners on, and the Builders were batting, the Friends coach decided to take out his seniors. Some of the SC players saw it as disrespectful but Good sees it a different way. “It’s a personal preference type of thing. It’s so those players can be recognized with applause, it’s more of a basketball thing. For our seniors they want to play every game to the fullest and to the very last moment,” she said.
Sauber knows what the team has to do to recover from the losses. She said, “More than anything we need to roll off these two games.” As a team captain she is going to continue to make sure her teammates are communicating. “We are going to keep talking to each other and letting each other know where to throw the ball. It’s my job to stay enthusiastic, cheer and keep the team up and positive,” she said.
She wants to make sure the last few games in her college softball career are the best they can be. She said, “I’ve learned not to put a lot of pressure on myself. I play better when I don’t. I just tell myself, I need to make this hit, I need to make this play.”
For Wilson the team needs to work every aspect of the game to go far in the conference tournament. She said, “Our short game has really been working when we utilize it, so I think if we use all of our weapons we could score a lot of runs.”