Hilltopper softball wins four in season opener

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The Hilltopper softball team had a winning weekend at the St. Mary’s University Division II College Classic as they faced off against Eastern New Mexico, Angelo State, Abilene Christian, Tarleton State and Incarnate Word, all highly-ranked programs. Their only tournament loss was a tough one to Angelo State, but the rest of the Toppers’ games resulted in W’s.

This was a great opener for the team, as the Toppers got to face off against some stiff competition, shake some pre-season nerves out of their system and try their hand against Angelo State, who notoriously knocked the Hilltoppers out of the Regional Tournament last year.

Despite their loss, they showed their true colors with wins across the board against the other big Division II schools.

“The St. Mary’s Tournament is known for having the best Division II regional teams play. The first weekend lets us get our jitters out. If we beat [these teams], they are already ranked, so that helps us out a lot. This weekend was kind of important,” senior outfielder Marissa Thome said.

In the recent pre-season Heartland Conference Poll, St. Edward’s University was picked as runner-up to conference rival St. Mary’s. Last season, St. Edward’s ranked second in the Heartland Conference but won the Heartland Conference Tournament. After the tournament, they advanced to the NCAA South Central Regional, where they finished in second place after losing to Angelo State 5–3.

“[The 2013 St. Mary’s Tournament] was the best we have started off in the four years I have been here,” Thome said. “We usually go even, with the same number of losses and wins. It was a really, really good weekend.”

But what makes Angelo State such stiff competition?

“Maybe it is in our minds. Defensively, they did not make any stellar plays. They literally had two big hits. Other than that, it would have been a 1–0 game,” Thome said. “It was frustrating, but it was good to bounce back and beat the other regionally-ranked teams the next day.”

The Hilltoppers were forced to play a pitcher short after a line drive hit freshman pitcher Katelyn Klug in the face and broke her nose in five places.

Sophomore pitchers Emily Mayfield and Sarah Debrow had to bring their respective A-games to recoup the loss of Klug, who is out of play indefinitely while she recovers.  

“I was in the circle minutes after she got hit. That is actually not the first time I have had to pitch in a pool of blood,” Mayfield said. “[Debrow and I] know the task at hand, but we are versatile. I rely on her, she relies on me, we get our job done.”

Mayfield was one of two Hilltoppers named to the All-Tournament Team this weekend and was selected as the Heartland Conference Pitcher of the Week.

“It feels amazing. It is awesome. I could not be there without my team, though,” Mayfield said.

The Hilltoppers will move into the season ranked higher than St. Mary’s because of their success in this tournament and their three-win streak. The St. Mary’s College Classic was a learning experience for the young team,  which has eight freshmen on its 19-woman roster.

“We finally learned that we can come together. In the past, it has been very obvious who our clear hitters are, but this weekend, every single person in the lineup had a hit at the right time,” Thome said.

The team’s successful opener weekend will translate to future successes throughout conference play.