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Sunday, September 24, 2023


Softball rides dominant hitting, pitching past Shockers

Junior Savannah Heebner struck out more batters — seven — than she allowed runs — five — in her two games pitched over the weekend, also finding time to play offense when she was not on the mound. | Thomas Dwyer/The Cougar

For only the third time in school history, the softball team took to the field against the Wichita State Shockers this weekend.

After three hard-fought games, the Cougars walked away with two wins, 7-0 and 6-3, one loss, 6-5, and fourth place in the American Athletic Conference standings. They now stand at a record of 27-16 with 11 games left before the postseason play.

During a weekend in which the 2008 Cougar team that made the NCAA Super Regionals was honored, junior starting pitcher Savannah Heebner showed her dominance both on the mound and at the plate.

In game one of the series on Friday, she threw a complete game shutout and complimented that by going two for three at the plate and driving in two of the Cougars’ seven runs. On Saturday, Heebner started the game as the first baseman before switching to pitcher for the final two innings of the game.

In the pivotal rubber match on Sunday, Heebner took to the mound again and again threw a complete game in a win for the team.

For the weekend, Heebner struck out more batters — seven — than runs allowed — five.

Heebner was helped by a concentrated effort from her teammates on both the offensive and defensive sides of the ball. The Cougars had six different players record at least one RBI over the weekend. When they achieve that balance, they hit a level very few teams can hit.

In a statistic that simply cannot be overlooked, the Cougars are now 19-1 when they score at least five runs and 8-15 when they score four runs or less.

Of players with at least 90 at-bats this season, the Cougars have four players who have a batting average of at least .300. Those four players, sophomores Sarah Queen, Lindsey Stewart and Arielle James and junior Maya Thomas, account for more than 40 percent of the team’s RBIs, doubles, homeruns and runs scored.

When they get going in a game, it allows the team to find the rhythm needed to beat any opponent.

What could cause opponents some concern is the fact that this weekend did not showcase the Cougars as their best selves. At their best, all the pitchers have shown they are capable of shutting down their foes, and the batters have shown they can light up the scoreboard into the teens.

With nine of their final eleven games of the regular season coming against conference opponents, the Cougars have put themselves in position to potentially enter the conference tournament as the top team.

If they manage to win the conference tournament, which is a real possibility, it will be the first conference championship in school history.

Heebner and fellow starting pitchers junior Presley Bell and sophomore Trystan Melancon spoke earlier this season about their goals.

“We want to win conference and make it to [Super Regionals],” Bell said, while her partners on the mound echoed the same sentiment.

If they keep playing at the level they are capable of, they are well on their way to achieving those goals.

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