The baseball team played a weekend series at home against Fort Hays. Game one was on Friday, Feb. 28 and the team lost (4-7). The Gorillas managed to bounce back and win games two and three on Saturday, Feb. 29 and Sunday, March 1 (11-5, 9-3). The baseball team also played a game against William Jewel on Tuesday, March 3 and won (10-7).
Head Baseball Coach Bob Fornelli was happy to win the majority of the games against Fort Hays.
“Well, we won three out of four which you always feel good about that, but I also think on Friday we kind of let one slip through our hands,” Fornelli said. “But the real testament was us coming back and winning the next two in the conference series.”
The softball team travelled to Topeka to compete in the Washburn Invitational from Friday, Feb. 28 to Sunday, March 1. Games one and two were on Friday, Feb. 28 against Southwest Minnesota State and St. Cloud State. The softball team lost the first game (2-7) but defeated St. Cloud (2-1). The next two games were on Saturday, Feb. 29. The Gorillas lost to Missouri- St. Louis (1-4) but defeated Minnesota Crookston (1-0). The team exited the weekend on Sunday, March 1 with wins against Sioux Falls (S.D.) and Rockhurst (3-0, 9-8).
“It was a solid six games for us,” said Head Softball Coach Ashley Balazs. “We went four and two, which makes us six out of our last eight. We had the offense who gave us a chance to win two games and then we had our pitchers, (and had) three shutouts actually, which was awesome for us. We’re really, really coming together as a team and (I) couldn’t have asked the girls to compete any harder than they did this past weekend.”
Fornelli believes the baseball team played well against Fort Hays.
“I just thought we played together pretty well,” Fornelli said. “We swung the bats pretty well this weekend and were very good defensively all weekend.”
A couple of players stood out to Balazs during the invitational.
“Kaylee Burnett had a huge weekend for us,” Balazs said. “(She) threw about 17 innings, only gave up nine or 10 hits, and really put the team on their back a couple games, two complete game shutouts and just did a fantastic job. We’ve been working on some stuff during practice, trying to get her back to where she was, and everything came full circle for us and showed the type of pitcher that she is.”
A couple of players stood out to Fornelli as well.
“Chandler Mauldin really pitched well on Saturday,” Fornelli said. “Peyton Ingalls pitched well on Sunday and gave us the opportunity to win the baseball game.”
According to Balazs, the softball team needs to work on consistency.
“We just need to be a little bit more consistent,” Balazs said. “We need to continue to put balls in play (offensively) and the pitchers need to continue to hit their spots time and time again. So, really for us it’s about consistency going into conference play.”
Looking ahead, the baseball team is set to play a series against Northeastern State from Friday-Sunday in Tahlequah, Oklahoma at Rousey Field. Game one is on Friday, March 12, game two is on Saturday, March 13, and game three is on Sunday, March 14. All three games are set to begin at 2 p.m.
“We’re looking forward to getting on the road,” Fornelli said. “We have the opportunity to play, hopefully, good baseball on the road. (We have) been at home a long time… That’s what we’re looking forward to this weekend.”
Coming up for the softball team is doubleheader at Emporia State. After that, the Gorillas have another doubleheader in Hays at Fort Hays State.
“For us, opening up conference play, we really, really need to get off to a hot start,” Balazs said. “We have Emporia coming up. They’re a really, really scrappy ball club. They’re never down, they’re always gonna compete, (and) they steal a lot of bases. We’re gonna need to be able to control the run game. We need to go; we need to continue to keep our butts moving in the direction that it is and come out with three or four wins this weekend.”
Balazs is excited to open conference play next week.
“(I am) just really looking forward for the opportunity for our girls to come and compete now that conference play has started,” Balazs said. “I think that we’ve learned a lot about ourselves, we’ve really, really been tested, and I think the girls are gonna rise up and have a great conference season.”