For the first time in a week, Columbia College softball got to play outdoors.
But after being freed from their small practice facility in Columbia, the Cougars had to escape two close games on Friday in O’Fallon, Ill.
The Cougars (9-4) notched a 1-0 win against No. 15 Olivet Nazarene University (17-5) and a 6-5 win over Iowa Wesleyan University (3-11) in the first day of the McKendree Invitational. Fresh off a third-place finish at the Gulf Shores Invitational, the Cougars relied on clutch late-inning hits to take the two victories.
“We never felt the game was in jeopardy, we were not going to break down,” coach Wendy Spratt said. “Not today, not this team.”
Against Olivet, Cougar senior Valerie Teter pitched seven innings and struck out 13, but her efforts did not end on the mound; she went 2-3 at the plate and doubled in the bottom of the sixth. With two outs, freshman Marli Hayes’ double then drove Teter home.
Hayes is one of five freshmen that have contributed greatly to the Cougars national title hopes this year.
“It’s not like they’re freshman,” sophomore co-captain Morgan Bounds said. “They’ve played at such a high level for so long that they’re prepared for all of this.”
The Cougars followed an impressive victory over Olivet by jumping out to a 5-1 lead against Iowa Wesleyan after five innings. But after giving up four runs over the next two innings, Columbia faced a 5-5 tie in the bottom of the seventh.
Hayes then sparked the offense, hitting a double with one out to give the Cougars a chance to win. Sophomore co-captain Rachel Coleman singledin Hayes to win the game for Columbia. Although she was happy her team won the game, Spratt was disappointed overall with the team's performance.
“We should have dominated the second game,” she said. “We need to make sure that we always play with a fire under us.”
The Cougars play Benedictine University (7-6) tomorrow morning at 9, followed by Aquinas College (11-3) at 11.