If you have to take on the nation’s seventh-ranked team on a Monday, then the best way to prepare might be a four-game winning streak over the preceding weekend.
That’s what the Southwestern softball team did, defeating NIACC on Saturday, 5-4 and 4-3, before pounding out a pair of wins over Iowa Lakes here Sunday, 11-3 and 11-7.
Southwestern, now 11-4 overall and 5-3 in conference play, hosts No. 7 Kirkwood (24-5, 7-1) at 3 p.m. today.
The weekend was a nice turnaround for a young Spartan team that began with a 6-1 trip to Myrtle Beach, S.C., before a 1-3 slump that dropped the record to 7-4. Suddenly, things appear to be back on track.
Pitchers Danielle McIntosh and Sam Strand each won two games over the weekend, and neither issued a walk against Iowa Lakes Sunday while fanning a combined 13.
“I think they are building a little bit more confidence,” coach Lindsay Stumpff said. “We needed that. Our mindset wasn’t ideal there for awhile.”
Southwestern showed an ability to battle from behind during the weekend, starting with game one against NIACC Saturday afternoon. Hannah Murphy reached safely on a bunt and shortstop Katrina DeVore stroked a sharp double to start off the home half of the seventh with SWCC trailing 4-2.
McIntosh helped her own cause with an RBI single to make it 4-3. The Spartan clean-up hitter, Emma Ferrin, was safe on an infield error. The play scored the tying run.
With a runner on third and one out, Sam Strand hit a grounder toward the shortstop, who threw to first base after a quick glance at the runner. McIntosh had enough time to scamper home with the winning run on the play.
DeVore was 2-of-4 in the game with a double and Ferrin had a double. McIntosh struck out two and walked two in picking up the win.
Strand pitched the 4-3 second game victory, setting down five on strikes while walking one. DeVore, Ferrin and outfielder Molly Schimp each had two hits in the game. Schimp, sophomore volleyball standout who had not played since 10th grade, also drove in two runs.
“Molly has been terrific,” Stumpff said. “She had not picked up a bat in five years, then in January she came out to help us and we turned her around and made her a lefthanded slapper. She really doesn’t strike out much at all. She’s been hitting the ball, and she runs so well.”
Sophomore catcher Brooke Wolf, returning after suffering a broken thumb on the South Carolina trip, drove in a run while playing DH in the second game. Peyton Russell caught the second game after Wolf caught McIntosh in the opener.
The Spartans rapped 34 hits in the two Sunday games.
McIntosh was backed by a 14-hit attack in the opener. She scattered 11 Iowa Lakes hits while striking out six. She also had two hits.
Extra-base hits were prevalent, as Southwestern got its first home runs of the season Sunday. After Wolf hit one in the opener, Ferrin and second baseman Ashley Gibbs each swatted one in the nightcap. Ferrin finished 4-4, Wolf had three hits including a double, Gibbs had three hits including a double to go with the homer and Katey Gambrel made the most of her start in right field with a pair of base hits and a walk.
Sophomore Sam Borland of Lenox got the start at first base in the second game and had a hit and a walk.
Strand fanned seven and walked none while yielding 11 hits.
While Kirkwood comes in today already having swept second-place DMACC, which has Creston’s Katlin Briley at shortstop, the Eagles did split with third-place Iowa Central. That lends hope for competing against the ranked visitors, Stumpff said.
“In our league I really think anybody is beatable,” Stumpff said. “You have to show up to play.”
Today’s weather was still a decent forecast at 68 degrees and partly cloudy, after a pleasant weekend of home games. But starting Tuesday, temperatures are expected to dip below 50 with midweek showers in the area.