An underachieving unit for most of the season's first 30 games, Northwest Missouri State's offense is in the midst of a massive April revival.
Over the weekend, the Bearcats averaged 20 runs per game, hit close to .500 as a team and set a new school-record with 31 runs in the finale of a three-game series with Southwest Baptist.
They've scored at least nine runs and had at least 14 hits in each of their last four games.
"It was a great weekend," said Northwest Missouri State head coach Darin Loe. "I think we started hitting the ball quite a bit better in game two against Washburn, and I think we turned the corner. That was the start of it. Down at SBU, guys really swung the bats well. It was a lot of fun. Again, it's the team we thought we had. We believed in our guys and it just took them a while to get rolling."
Northwest's 31-run explosion included nine doubles and seven home runs, two apiece from Cam Bedard and Charlie Krueger.
Lead-off man Ryan Abernathy also homered as part of a seven-hit day that raised his average to .295.
Other struggling hitters like Eric Swain, Brandon Huske and Eric McGlauflin had productive weekends as well.
"I think in the first 30 games you saw a lot of guys that were frustrated," said Loe. "They knew what kind of hitters they were. They were coming off good years last year and that just kind of snow-balled. You look back over those 30 games and basically game days were our practice. Through our first 30 games, we only had five practices on our field. Now, we're getting outside and starting to get a little rhythm. Guys are getting a little bit of confidence because we're starting to practice outside a little bit."
The Bearcats (12-23, 10-20) finished the weekend plus-36 in run differential, but only took two of three in a series they should've swept.
Northwest held as much as a five-run lead and entered the final half-inning up two runs in the one game it lost to SBU 14-13 Saturday.
It was Northwest's third consecutive loss in one-run games, but was followed by the greatest offensive showing in school history.
"Whenever we go into a series, we want to win the series," said Loe. "We were able to do that. SBU is a solid ball club. That game two kind of slipped away a little bit. We're really proud of the guys for bouncing back after that one. It was an emotional loss, a frustrating loss. Thirty minutes later, we go out and put up five in the first and never really looked back."
Northwest remains in 12th place in the conference, four back of Southwest Baptist (12-19, 12-14). In order to reach the conference tournament, Northwest has to make up a six game-deficit on Fort Hays State (19-14, 15-13) with 13 to play.
Page 2 of 3 - The Bearcats host a non-conference game with William Jewell Friday at 2 p.m. They begin a three-game set at Emporia State Saturday.
"Obviously, we got to keep winning ball games," said Loe. "Certainly, I think this team is capable with the way we're playing better baseball."
Run support lacking
While the baseball team's bats have heated up recently, the softball team's have cooled off considerably.
After a 17-run outburst in their last home game with Northern State, the Bearcats scored just 16 on their recently completed eight-game road swing and no more than four in any of them.
Their only two home runs during that stretch came from third baseman Kristen Uthe.
Once the MIAA's second-best hitting team, the Bearcats now rank seventh (.296) in batting average, fifth in on-base percentage and ninth in slugging percentage.
"I know every year there are streaks where you're not going to score those seven, eight runs that you want, but you hope that two, three or four people can break out," said Northwest Missouri State head coach Ryan Anderson. "We're in games defensively and we're making plays, but we just have to break out."
Northwest overcame sparse offensive production to take three of four games at Pittsburg State and Missouri Southern, but it cost them this past weekend.
The Bearcats dropped the back end of a doubleheader to Nebraska-Kearney and lost a pair of one-run games to first-place Fort Hays to finish the trip 1-3.
Fort Hays State's Maddie Holub—the MIAA leader in ERA—tossed a perfect game against Northwest and struck out 17 of the 21 hitters she faced.
Holub also pitched two innings of scoreless relief to earn the win in game two which went extra innings.
Jenna Creger (9-6) took the loss in both games, first as a starter and then in relief, despite allowing just two runs in 8 2/3 innings.
"It was four games of everybody being off," said Anderson. "Up and down the lineup, we were just off the whole weekend. With those kind of pitchers, you have to put the ball in play and we didn't help ourselves. We chased some bad pitches and (Holub's) a good pitcher that keeps spotting it. Pitch selection has to change for us."
Tied for seventh in the MIAA, Northwest (19-11, 7-7) should benefit from playing its next 10 games at home.
The stretch begins with a doubleheader against 13th place Lincoln Thursday. The Bearcats host co-seventh place occupant Lindenwood Saturday and sixth place Truman State Sunday.
"We have to come out and start hitting like we were two weeks ago," said Anderson. "It is a good stretch. It's nice that it's at home. We don't have to travel for a while. That sure helps."
Page 3 of 3 - Meet cancelled
Scheduled to host one more home meet, Northwest Missouri State announced the cancellation of Saturday's Bearcat Open Tuesday.
The Bearcats will have split squads competing at the Emporia State Multi-Events, KT Woodman Classic in Wichita, Kan., and William Jewell Open Thursday-Sunday.
This past weekend, Zac Bendrick met the NCAA qualifying mark for the hammer throw with a distance of 48.18m. John Petroff also took first place in the discus throw with a toss of 50.93m which meets the NCAA qualifying mark.
Despite constant wind gusts, Anne Herbert missed the NCAA qualifying time by two tenths of a second in the 3000m steeplechase, finishing with a time of 11:22.31.
Nearing the end
The Northwest men's tennis team carries a six-match win streak into one of its most critical weeks of the regular season.
The No. 22 Bearcats (13-3, 1-0) play three conference matches over the next five days versus Washburn, Emporia State and Southwest Baptist.
Each of the last two are at home.
Sunday's match with SBU at Frank Grube Courts is likely to determine this year's regular season champion and top seed in the conference tournament.
Northwest beat SBU 5-4 in last year's MIAA Tournament finals.
Northwest's women (8-8, 3-2) have five MIAA matches remaining in the regular season.
The first two are Thursday against Washburn and Fort Hays State in Topeka, Kan. Northwest hosts Emporia State and Southwest Baptist over the weekend.