By SARAH RUIZ, Staff Reporter
The Wildcats could feel the momentum rising when they hit their tempo. It was Senior Day and the second game in their doubleheader against Montana State University Billings on Saturday.
By the bottom of the fourth inning in Game 2, the score was 3-0 in favor of Central, a change of pace from the game before where they lost in Game 1 7-0. Freshman Rachel O’Neil kicked the game off for Central when she hit a single to left field while pinch-hitting for sophomore Shelby Yasuda.
After O’Neil, freshman Remy Bradley capitalized and hit a single of her own. With Yasuda and Bradley on base, freshman Michaela Hazlett was next up to bat. She managed to hit the ball toward the second baseman, and because of an error, all players advanced.
Senior Cassi Ellis came up to bat with runners on first and third. Montana State’s pitcher walked Ellis, advancing all the players including Yasuda, who scored on a walkoff run. Junior Jill McDaniels also saw bases loaded, capitalized and batted in another run, pushing Central’s lead to 6-0.
The fourth inning would prove to be the game-changer for the Wildcats, who managed to only score one more run. In the final inning, it was a hit from Kocik when the bases were loaded that forced the end of the doubleheader due to mercy-rule at 8-0, giving Central the split on the day.
Central lost to the Yellowjackets 7-0 in Game 1.
“Overall we played really well,” Kocik said. “Our first game wasn’t the greatest but we came back next game and showed Montana who we are, always fight to the end.”
Central would win the second game, advancing the team in the Great Northwest Athletic Conference. The Wildcats (19-14, 13-7 GNAC) moved up to second place.
“We had a six-day break so we started off kind of slow the first game and we didn’t get the win we wanted,” Carter said. “But we adjusted to the pitcher and were able to get more hits the second game.”
In Central’s 7-0 loss in Game 1, the Wildcats had trouble hitting off Yellowjackets’ pitcher Jessyka MacDonald, who completed the shutout. The Wildcats’ hitting woes were not typical, however, having four players in the top 20 for batting averages in the GNAC individual standings.
Junior Maria Gau helped to prevent plays from the Yellowjackets. Her pitching struck out two in the second inning and provided help to the defense, which continued to make plays that prevented more runs.
Despite their loss in the opener, moods were high as the festivities for Senior Day began. Family members escorted Ellis, Carter and Kocik to the field where their career highlights were announced to the crowd. Gifts and mementos were handed out soon after.
“It’s crazy that it’s already my senior year,” Kocik said. “I couldn’t have asked for a better team my senior year. The girls are amazing; I’m excited to go to playoffs with them.”
Ellis and Kocik, who are both transfers to the Central Washington University softball team, described the valuable learning experiences they recieved from their careers. The three seniors may have had their last home game at Central, but they will not be saying goodbye to the team just yet. Playoffs are in the future for the Wildcats, and Ellis hopes her team remembers one lesson she learned from playing at Central.
“Never give up, and realize that playing this game is a privilege,” Ellis said. “Don’t take this game for granted. Go out and play 110 percent every day.”
The first day of the 2013 GNAC Softball Championships will be held Tuesday, May 2 on the campus of MSUB. It will be a four-team, double elimination tournament.