McKenzie West
Ferris State junior shortstop McKenzie West scoops up a groundball during Thursday's Rebel Spring Games action at the Fortune Road Complex in Kissimmee, Fla. (Photo by Sandy Gholston).

Another Important Day Begins With A Fresh Start For The Bulldogs

By Sandy Gholston

KISSIMMEE, Fla. – Facing Southern Illinois-Edwardsville, the defending NCAA Division II national softball champion is tough enough, but facing the Cougars on a three-game losing streak is even tougher.

Still, that was precisely the position the Bulldogs found themselves in as they took the field at Fortune Road Complex in Kissimmee, Fla. as part of their schedule at the Rebel Spring Games. That was just to start a pivotal day of softball, however, as the Bulldogs then had to face the challenge of Southern Indiana. Then, on top of all that, Ferris came face to face with the realization SIUE and USI are regional opponents in games that could – ironically enough as it is still March – loom large at the end of the season when regional bids are awarded in May.

The challenge for the Bulldogs was to rediscover a higher energy level, remember that softball is fun, and clean up those little mistakes that appear large in the middle of a big game. It was evident – fairly early in the morning game against Southern Illinois-Edwardsville – the Bulldogs were closer to playing their brand of softball – well ahead of their performances the day before in a tripleheader that featured a heartbreaking loss to American International followed by decisive losses to C.W. Post and regional rival Indianapolis.

Thursday, the Bulldogs also had to face SIUE’s top pitcher Kaitlin Colosimo – a thrower they and a lot of other opponents have had a tough time with over the years. Colosimo pitched eight innings, allowed 10 hits, four runs (one earned run), walked one and struck out six. She had a solid effort as she did her best to bend – with those 10 hits and four runs allowed – without totally breaking. Colosimo was mostly matched, however, by Ferris’ Sarah Mueller, a junior pitcher, who allowed eight hits and four runs (only one earned) in eight innings with six strikeouts.

Ferris trailed 3-1 entering the seventh inning when a 2-run single by Amanda Jager knotted the score at 3-3 on the scoreboard and ultimately forced extra innings. It was one of those clutch hits the Bulldogs have desperately sought in key situations during several games so far this spring.

In the eighth, with International Tiebreaker rules in effect, SIUE picked up one run on an RBI triple to left field and another on a sacrifice fly to right to grab a 5-3 lead.

Junior Holly Bruntjens singled in a run for the Bulldogs, but that was all the offense Ferris could muster – in the eighth – as SIUE shut the door and held on for the 1-run win.

In the day’s second contest, those key hits finally came around as the Bulldogs grabbed a rare early lead going up 3-0 on Southern Indiana – right off the bat – in the first inning. Third-year catcher Krystle Bailey singled and doubled, senior third baseman Katie Kraai drove in a run on a fielder’s choice and then one more on a single. Junior first baseman Amanda Jager was credited with an RBI on a single.

The loss to USI could be a confidence builder for Ferris as the Bulldogs proved to themselves that they could come through in big games.

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