Involved in a fight for conference tournament seeding, Northwest Missouri State's softball team resumes a 10-game homestand this weekend with doubleheaders against Washburn and Emporia State.
The Bearcats host Washburn Saturday at 1 p.m. and will honor their eight seniors beforehand. They take on Emporia State Sunday at noon.
Northwest was originally scheduled to face Emporia State Friday, but the games were moved back because of weather.
The Bearcats (22-12, 10-8) split with Lindenwood last weekend and swept Truman State, moving them up to sixth in the MIAA. They trail fifth-place Northeastern State by a game and lead the two teams behind them–Central Missouri and Truman State—by a game.
Only the top eight teams qualify for the MIAA Tournament May 2-4 in Overland Park, Kan.
Washburn (9-27, 5-13) is one of two teams left on Northwest's schedule in the bottom half of the conference
The Lady Blues reside in 13th place and have lost seven straight. They rank next-to-last in the MIAA in team ERA.
Deidra Jones (.407, 6 HR) and Alex Zordel (.370, 6 HR) are among the MIAA's top 20 hitters, but only one other Lady Blue has better than a .300 average.
The competition stiffens Sunday when Emporia State (27-12, 14-6) pays a visit.
The Hornets are fourth in the MIAA and ninth in the Central Region, but lost three of four last weekend in Oklahoma.
Emporia is the third-best hitting team in the MIAA with a .314 average and third in team ERA at 2.59.
Cacy Williams ranks third in the MIAA with a .421 average and has gone deep nine times on the year. Taylor Zordel carries a .415 average that is fifth-best in the MIAA.
Amanda Self and Stephanie Goodwin are both hitting .342. Goodwin leads the Hornets with 10 home runs.
ESU's top pitcher Karley Schmelzer is tied for the MIAA lead with 20 wins and ranks fifth with a 2.08 ERA. No. 2 pitcher Lauren Sharp is 7-6 with a 3.28 ERA.
They'll face a Northwest attack that last weekend broke out of a two-week slump to score 23 runs in four games.
Senior Candace Miller had five hits in the sweep of Truman, including a game-tying triple in game two, and leads the Bearcats with a .391 average. Seniors Kristen Uthe (.330), Jordan Ereth (.318) and Hailee Hendricks (.316) are all above .300 as well.
Ace pitcher Jenna Creger (10-7) gave up nine earned runs in two starts last weekend, but still ranks second in the conference with a 1.72 ERA. Sophomore No. 2 Abbie Vitosh lowered her ERA to 3.21 last weekend, giving up just two runs in each start. She's 8-3 on the year.
Northwest Missouri State's men head into the this weekend's MIAA Tennis Tournament in Springfield as the odds-on favorite to win their fourth straight tournament title.
Page 2 of 3 - The Bearcats (17-3, 5-0) are the No. 1 seed and beat every other MIAA team during the regular season by at least a two-match margin. All six of Northwest's singles players have at least 15 wins led by freshman Sergio de Vilchez who is 21-6.
DeVilchez and Lluis Altimeres, both natives of Spain, comprise Northwest's No. 1 doubles team that is 24-5 on the year.
DeVilchez and freshman Alvaro Riveros are the only new members of a Bearcat lineup that graduated just one player from last year's NCAA Tournament team.
"We had a good recruiting year, we had a very good nucleus back and we have two really good assistant coaches," said Northwest Missouri State head tennis coach Mark Rosewell. "I like our chances of (winning the tournament) assuming we stay healthy. We have a couple injuries. Nothing serious, but if all our guys are playing, we got a good chance."
Northwest awaits the winner of No. 4 Nebraska-Kearney and No. 5 seed Truman State in the semifinals Saturday morning.
The Bearcats swept both teams during the regular season, most recently Truman on Tuesday.
In the finals, Northwest is likely to face either No. 2 seed Washburn or No. 3 seed Southwest Baptist.
They were the only two MIAA teams to win a match off Northwest this year.
The Bearcats defeated Washburn 5-2 and Southwest Baptist 5-3, both within the last two weeks.
Northwest has faced SBU in the finals each of the last two years and won both times.
The winner of the MIAA Tournament receives automatic berth into the Central Region Tournament field, and Northwest—ranked second in the region—stands a good chance of hosting should it take care of business.
The Bearcat women (12-9) are in a different spot than the men, needing to pull an upset or two to win the tournament.
They are seeded fourth and host fifth-seeded UNK—coached by former Bearcat Jake Salisbury— in the first round today at 1 p.m.
With a win, the Bearcats would advance to play top-seeded Southwest Baptist in the semifinals.
SBU swept Northwest last week 5-0.
By sweeping a doubleheader from Nebraska-Kearney Tuesday, the Bearcat baseball team assured itself of playing meaningful games this weekend.
Still in the hunt for a conference tournament spot, the Bearcats conclude their home schedule with a three-game set against last-place Lincoln Saturday and Sunday.
Northwest (16-25, 13-22) probably needs to sweep in order to keep its slim conference tournament hopes alive.
The Bearcats trail the two eighth place teams—Southwest Baptist and Fort Hays State—by five games with eight to play. Fort Hays State (21-17, 17-16) hosts Truman State this weekend and Southwest Baptist (18-21, 16-15) hosts Missouri Southern.
Page 3 of 3 - Playing with a sense of desperation, Northwest has won five of its last seven games and seven of its last 10. Two of its losses during that span were by one run.
The Bearcats broke a streak of six straight one-run losses in game one at UNK and completed the sweep with a 7-1 win in game two.
Northwest currently has five regulars hitting over .300 and its team ERA is down to 6.71.
Northwest will start left-hander Ryker Fox (4-4, 4.76) and right-hander Marcus Garrett (2-2, 5.14) in the first two games this weekend. Fox has allowed three runs or less in each of his last five starts.
Lincoln (5-28, 4-24) has yet to win a series or sweep a doubleheader this season, but the Blue Tigers have taken a game off No. 8 Central Missouri, Pittsburg State and Lindenwood.
Most recently, the Blue Tigers were swept in a doubleheader by Southwest Baptist.