The women of the Knox College Prairie Fire softball team are busy preparing themselves for their first divisional competition.
The team opens divisional play fairly late in the season this year and is excited for a number of reasons. One reason is their ability to play in the Midwest Conference (MWC) tournament at the end of the season is not determined by the record that they hold thus far, 5-15, after dropping four this past weekend and another two on Tuesday.
Another reason they are excited is that they feel very confident about their defense and now can really get their bats swinging. But perhaps the thing that has the Fire the most fired up is a doubleheader versus rival school Monmouth College this Friday, April 16.
Monmouth, who is currently sitting in first place in the division with an overall record of 8-12 and a conference record of 4-3, will be traveling the 15 miles to Knox.
While records do make some difference, there is a point system that is used for determining tournament eligibility. The MWC is split into two divisions, the North and the South. Knox is in the South. Teams receive two points for each win in their division and one point for each conference win against a non-divisional team.
The conference just hosted the crossover tournament so all the points that could have been received from playing non-divisional teams have been received. After that tournament, Monmouth leads the South division with six points. The top two point getters in each division go to the conference tournament and play for the chance to go to nationals. This is an attainable goal but it starts with Friday.
This past weekend, our Prairie Fire did not pull out any wins but did play well defensively.
“This weekend was good for us. We showed a lot of good things. We had some good defensive games,” said first year head softball coach Ashley Sims.
The team was very encouraged when they held Ripon College, the second ranked team in the conference, to three runs and did not give those up until the seventh inning. The pitching, which is being split between senior Cory Bieber and sophomore Brianna Collishaw, has certainly helped in their defensive efforts. Collishaw shared that they had received some pointers on their pitching from the Monmouth pitching coach, demonstrating the type of sportsmanship we expect in the Midwest Conference. (Whatever happened to good old-fashioned rivalries?)
That same defense was not so stellar on Tuesday when Knox lost both games in the doubleheader versus Robert Morris by mercy rule, causing some of the fans to sing in Marvin Gaye fashion “Mercy, Mercy Me.” One bright spot on Tuesday was senior Regina Cloyd’s five grabs in left field.
“You know that feeling, when there is more that you have left to give and you want to push everyone to keep going? … It’s discontentment. There is something better to come,” said senior Cassie Milleville, who is very optimistic about the rest of the season.
Hopefully that something better will begin this Friday. Sims will be especially motivated as she will be playing her alma mater when she steps on the field to coach against Monmouth.
The Fire is ready to ignite and in the words of the great ‘70s group, The Trammps, “Burn, baby, burn!”