By Mike Tupa
Admittedly, the Oklahoma Wesleyan University softball team has endured some major growing pains — especially during Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference play.
The Lady Eagles sit at 6-17 overall and 1-3 in the KCAC.
But, they’ve also displayed signs of promise.
In their most recent outing, they pushed Bethel (Kan.) to the limit before losing in extra innings, 8-7.
During first season of the month, OKWU battled to a 5-7 record during a 12-game stretch.
But, the Lady Eagles then collided with a tough Evangel (Mo.) team, starting a slide resulting in a 1-7 mark their last eight games.
They will be hoping to reverse their fortunes during Tuesday’s road test at Sterling (Kan.).
In their eight-inning loss at Bethel, Talia Salinas cranked a homer and drove in three runs to energize OKWU’s offense.
Tahlor Stefek added a double and a single and Abby Martinez mash two singles and drove home a run.
Emily Balcom also fueled the attack with a single, a sacrifice bunt and two stolen bases.
OKWU went 3-for-3 in stolen bases.
The Lady Eagles used three different hurlers to try to shut down Bethel.
Salinas tossed the first 5.2 innings, scattering 11 hits and allowing seven runs. She didn’t allow a walk.
Bartlesville High School graduate Abbey Ely then pitched in middle relief, not allowing a hit or a run in one-third of an inning while facing two batters.
Alex Hernandez finished up the final inning, allowing three hits and one run.
OKWU surged to a 3-0 lead in the top of the first — on Salinas’ three-run clout. Stefek and Kaylee Clinton were on base when Salinas hit her bomb.
The Lady Eagles still led after five-and-a-a-half innings, 7-3.
In the top of the sixth, Stefek slammed a two-out double and was left stranded.
Bethel tied the game, 7-7, in the bottom of the sixth.
In the bottom of the eighth, Bethel led off with three-straight base hits to score the walk-off run.
OKWU is slated to play two on Tuesday at Bethel and two on Wednesday at Tabor (Kan.).
Clinton is the team’s leading hitter (.370) among the regulars (12 games played or more).
She has lashed six doubles and driven in six runs.
Clinton has struck out only three times in 73 at-bats.
Salinas owns a sparkling .333 average, with two doubles and three homers. She has plated nine runs.
Also boasting a .300 average is Stefek (.304). She leads in doubles (seven). She has driven in five runs.
Emilee McDonald (.224) leads in RBI’s (12), followed by Ashley Stone (.200) with 10.
Payton Langley (.290) also has put up some noteworthy offensive numbers, including four doubles, one homer and eight RBI’s.
Among the three main pitchers, Salinas has fashioned the lowest earned run average (6.40), during 54.2 innings of work. Her record is 2-6, including three complete games.
Ely (2-8, 8.25) leads in innings pitched (57.2), complete games (five) and strikeouts (36).
Hernandez (2-2, 6.53) has made 11 appearances in the circle and worked 24.2 innings.