The Prairie Fire softball team (6-20, 1-8) has officially been eliminated from the playoffs, but the team still has some things that they want to accomplish before their season ends on April 27.
“We are just trying to finish strong so that when we go into next season we will have a good starting point — confidence builder,” said senior shortstop Cheyenne Cortez. “It is always good to end on a good note so the next season can start that way as well. At this point it is just about having pride.”
First-year head coach Ashley Sims is also hopeful that the team ends their season strong. She does not want to finish the season in last place in the South Division and she wants to get two wins on Sunday when the Prairie Fire play their last home doubleheader of the season against the Lady Blues of Illinois College.
“We definitely don’t want to finish last,” Sims said. “With IC coming up for senior day on Sunday, we would love to take two. We are going to have to be competitive for two games to have a chance at that. Hopefully, we come out and play. … Get our bats going early, at least get a split and maybe get two that day.”
This year better than last
Last season, Knox had an overall record of 3-29 and went 0-13 in Midwest Conference play.
This year’s team is much better off than last year’s team and is headed in the right direction.
Sims defers all the credit to her team.
“You know it is definitely all about them,” she said. “They have put in the work. They’ve put in the time and effort and trusted each other and myself. They just work hard. I think they have done a good job at that and keeping their head up at times where it was tough — battling through some tough spots in games and some losing droughts. I just think that just says a lot about the character of the players on this team.”
Cortez attributes this year’s success to a different mental approach.
“We have talked about it a little bit on the team. I think it is just a difference in attitude. We lost two players last year so it is not a difference in the people. It is just a difference in attitude and confidence,” she said. “This season has been better than the last, I think that’s proof that you can put in the hard work and it can pay off. You don’t know if it’s going to pay off your senior year that season or the very next season. It is kind of just proof that if you put in the time good things will happen. You just don’t know when.”
Lady Vikings sweep Knox
The Augustana College Lady Vikings (24-9) came to the ‘Burg last night and took two from the Fire. Knox lost the first game by a score of 10-2 and lost the nightcap by a score of 4-2.
Game one was mostly Augustana. The Lady Vikings had a dozen hits and had four home runs. Augustana’s Ashley Mulligan had two homers.
“I think the first game that we came out kind of flat,” said senior Cory Bieber, who took the loss. “Defense was there, but they took some pretty tricky pitches yard and they really earned the home runs that they got. It was hard, because they are a hard hitting team.”
Bieber struggled during her six innings inside the chalked circle, which is something that she has been trying to overcome the last few games.
“I’ve been struggling a little bit. I have been struggling with injuries and old age,” she said with a chuckle after the doubleheader versus Auggie. “Teams come around second time, third time through the batting order and it’s what can you throw them that they haven’t already seen. I’ve learned a couple of new pitches this year, but today they just got the best of me.”
At the plate, the Prairie Fire only mustered five hits and scored their two runs in the bottom of the fourth inning.
In the nightcap, sophomore Brianna Collishaw received the loss. In seven innings of work, she allowed eight hits, four runs (all earned) and fanned two. Offensively, Knox had five hits.
“The second game, I think we really came out and really wanted to prove that we can hang out with a team that was at one point nationally ranked in the NCAA Division III,” Bieber said.
Split in Grinnell, Iowa
Last Saturday, the Prairie Fire traveled to Grinnell, Iowa, faced the Pioneers of Grinnell College and split a doubleheader.
In game one, Knox mustered up nine hits and scored three runs but it was not enough and they lost the nail biter by a score of 4-3. Senior Regina Cloyd and Collishaw led the Prairie Fire at the plate. They both went 3-for-4 in the game. Collishaw pitched the entire 6.2 innings that Knox played defense and allowed 11 hits, four runs (three earned), walked two and struck out five.
Knox took the oomph that they built in the first game against Grinnell and used it to their advantage in the second game, winning by a score of 10-7.
“We got pretty fired up at the end of the first game. I think it is something that we felt that we should have won, but our bats weren’t working,” said Cortez, who went 3-for-4 in the nightcap and scored three runs. “I think for once, we actually used our energy in a positive way — just got up and expected to get hits.”
Sims was proud of the way her team performed in game two.
“I think anytime you have a team lose a game and then not only come back, but come back after being down a couple runs it is always a good thing. It says a lot about your team and your character and the type of people you have on it,” she said. “They definitely fought hard and got after it and you could definitely see the confidence come out. We were ready to bat and just confident. As one person got a hit the next person got a hit. … It was exciting. It was a good thing for us to get a win.”
Bieber stepped inside the chalked circle for Knox in the second game and earned the win. In her seven innings of work, she allowed nine hits, seven runs (three earned), walked three and fanned one.
The Fire notched 15 hits in the nightcap. Bieber and Collishaw were the only two Knox batters who did not get a hit.
Scots sweep Prairie Fire
This past Friday, the Prairie Fire took on their head coach’s alma mater, the Monmouth College Fighting Scots, in their first South Division doubleheader of the season and were swept.
Game one was knotted at zero until the fifth inning when Monmouth’s Maggie Dort hit a solo home run to right centerfield. Knox was unable to bring their bats to life in the final two frames and the Scots scored again in the top of the seventh to seal the 2-0 victory.
Collishaw stepped inside the chalked circle for the Prairie Fire in game one. In seven innings of work, she allowed six hits, two runs (one earned) and struck out two.
At the dish, freshman Brittany Wisniewski had two hits for Knox. Collishaw chipped in a hit, as did Cloyd.
“The first game was good for us, we were right there. … We had some people in scoring position and just weren’t able to get anything going,” Sims said. “Defensively, we did all right. It was a pretty tough game. It was a pretty hard fought game so I was happy with that.”
In the second game, Monmouth’s bats caught fire as Morgan Seiler hit a two-run home run in the first and Ashley Sorenson hit a two run homer in the third. The Prairie Fire managed to score one run in the bottom of the third when Cloyd crossed the dish, but the game ended Monmouth 10, Knox 1.
Bieber took the loss for the Prairie Fire. In five innings, she allowed 11 hits, 10 runs (nine earned) and walked three.
“The second game, they came out pretty strong — got some good hits on us,” Sims said. “We just weren’t able to get our bats going that game. Monmouth did a good job. We just didn’t get our bats going.”