By Grant Abston, Sports Editor
The Wildcat softball team will play its first home games of the season this weekend at the CBS Insurance Classic against St. Mary’s, Emporia State, Northeastern State and Southeastern Oklahoma.
The Wildcats competed in the St. Mary’s Tournament last weekend, winning three of five. The Wildcats defeated Rollins, Washburn and Midwestern State while losing to Texas A&M-International and Cameron. ACU played St. Mary’s on Thursday, winning 13-11 in the opening game. The Wildcats will play Emporia State and Lone Star Conference North Division opponent Northeastern State in a double-header on Friday. The Wildcats will finish against LSC North Division opponent Southeastern Oklahoma on Saturday.
“I think we need to learn how to play at our highest level no matter who our opponent is,” said head coach Chantiel Wilson. “No matter who is on field for us, we need to go out and compete and try to win every inning and keep that mentality whether we are playing the No. 1 team in the nation or someone that is not ranked at all.”
Pitcher Jacque Gregoire earned all three wins last weekend after pitching 21.0 innings and allowing just five earned runs in her three starts. Gregoire boasts a team-high 2.14 ERA and 15 strikeouts and will be counted on for two to three quality starts this weekend. Pitchers Kim White (0-1) and Britney Benedict (0-1) could get the other starts for the Wildcats.
“Gregoire is a great competitor,” Wilson said. “She dealt with injuries last year and didn’t get to pitch as much, but she wants the ball every time and has confidence that she can get the batter out every time.”
The Wildcats averaged 3.6 runs last weekend and are led by catcher Jessica Shiery. Shiery leads the team with a .533 batting average and eight hits and is tied for the team lead with 4 RBI. Outfielder Shelby McElvain is second on the team with a .455 batting average and leads the team in home runs after hitting two last weekend. First baseman Katie Cornelison (.438) and outfielder Caitlin Nabors (.368) also will lead the Wildcat offense after combining for 6 RBI last weekend.
“Jessica Shiery had a great weekend hitting the ball and teams that know her pitch around her,” Wilson said. “Shelby McElvain had two home runs and had a really good weekend offensively.”
The Wildcats will play 2008 Division II runner-up Emporia State (3-1) at 4 p.m. and Northeastern State (0-5) at 6 p.m. on Friday. The Wildcats will conclude the weekend against Southeastern Oklahoma (6-1) at 4 p.m. on Saturday.
“I think [the players] look forward to having a good game and trying to keep that momentum going,” Wilson said. “If we have a rough game like we did last weekend, we can let it go and we have another one to redeem ourselves.”