Russiaville — Western’s softball team started out its Mid-Indiana Conference slate by taking a firm step in the right direction with an 8-1 victory over Northwestern Thursday afternoon.
Western pitcher Erika Beeler threw a complete game with 14 strikeouts and Western got a key hit from Kate Johnson to help blow the game open during the five-run bottom of the second to help the Panthers go ahead and stay there.
Western is 6-2 overall, and most importantly, 1-0 in the league.
“Two losses and you’re out in our conference,” Western coach Jim Clouse said. “You just can’t drop a conference game. It’s really important to get out to a good start. 0-1 in the Conference puts so much pressure on you not to lose again. We knew [Thursday] night was important, and it’s not only important for the conference, it’s important in the we came back from two losses in a row this week and ended this week on a positive.”
Western turned the game its way quickly. After failing to score with a play at the plate in the first, the Panthers got their leadoff batter on base in the bottom of the second and went to work. Western scored a run on an error, then a run on a sacrifice bunt by Morgan Grove before Johnson hit a two-run single to push the lead to 4-0. Johnson later scored on an error.
“We threatened in the first inning, then we came out in the second inning, got a couple big hits when we needed them, ran the bases extremely well in that inning, put some pressure on them to make some plays,” Clouse said. “And then a big two-out hit by Kate Johnson drove in two runs. She’s been struggling a little bit and that was a real big confidence booster for her.”