COLUMBIA — During spring break last week, the Columbia College softball team took a trip to California.
The Cougars played six games during the trip under sunny, blue skies and in 90-degree weather. The Cougars went 3-3 against strong competition. They lost a pair to California Baptist, the No. 1 team in the NAIA.
But according to senior center fielder Lidsey Williams, the trip was a valuable experience for the Cougars regardless of their record because it gave the young team a chance to bond. Columbia College has 7 freshman.
“We were together nonstop for about seven days,” Williams said. “(We) figured out this is who we’re stuck with and we decided kind of to bond and do what we needed to do.”
The trip also benefited the Cougars because of the experience and confidence they gained from playing against some of the top-ranked teams in the NAIA. No. 14 Columbia College dropped the pair of games to California Baptist and split a doubleheader with No. 8 Vanguard.
“It just makes you better,” coach Wendy Spratt said. “The big thing is confidence. I think they saw the No. 1 team and they know that on a good day we can come out and beat them.”
After the week in the sun, however, returning to play in Columbia was a bit of a shock. Temperatures dipped in the 40s and the wind whipped in at the plate for the Cougars’ doubleheader against the University of Illinois at Springfield on Tuesday.
Players wore grey long-sleeved shirts under their jerseys and continually blew into their hands while playing the field. One Cougar, first baseman Rachel Brawner, even played with a hooded sweatshirt over her jersey.
And along with the cold weather, the Cougar offense went cold in the first game too.
Coumbia College only had two hits in the first game, losing 1-0 while stranding six runners on base. The poor offensive effort wasted a solid outing on the mound by senior Katie McMahon, who threw a two-hitter and allowed only one run.
“The weather didn’t help us,” the Cougars’ leading hitter, freshman Valerie Teter said. “It was a bit of a shock coming out today playing in the cold.”
After the poor showing, Williams said it was a matter of pride for the Cougars to put some runs on the board in the second game.
The Cougars struggled through the first three innings, but scored four runs in the fourth on their way to a 6-0 win.
Williams was 2-for-4 in the game, with a double and two RBI. She also scored a run.
Teter, who was the American Midwest Conference pitcher-of-the-week last week, got the win on the mound, allowing just three hits and striking out 13 batters. Columbia College is 19-7 on the season and 3-1 in conference. Teter is 10-3 on the season.
Columbia College plays another home doubleheader on Thursday against McKendree, another conference opponent.