The Mid-American Conference softball tournament is a refreshing sight for Miami University.
Seeded fifth after finishing second in the East Division during the regular season, the RedHawks have lost nine of their last 11 games and possess an overall record of 19-32.
“Pitching and defense for the most part have been doing just fine,” MU coach Clarisa Crowell said. “We’re just struggling a little bit with our bats right now. I think we’ve been pressing a little bit in the box.
“If you’ve played the game, you understand that it beats you up a little bit. I don’t want them overthinking. We need to relax and have fun.”
Miami totaled just 13 runs in those nine defeats and is hitting .269 as a team. The RedHawks’ opponents are hitting .321.
Yet MU’s draw in the double-elimination tournament is a pretty good one. Miami faces No. 8 Toledo at 11 a.m. today at Firestone Stadium in Akron after sweeping the Rockets 7-5 and 11-10 in March.
A win would send the RedHawks into a 5 p.m. contest against No. 4 Northern Illinois, another squad MU swept this year.
“I think they’re still pretty confident in what they can do, as am I,” Crowell said. “I think Toledo is a good matchup for us because we put up almost 20 runs against their pitching, so I think my kids have the mind-set of, ‘Hey, we can hit this pitcher. Let’s go get this done.’
“This is the week to turn it on. I’m confident they’ll be able to do that.”
Miami’s top four hitters are freshman first baseman Hailey Reed (.336), junior catcher Kayla Ledbetter (.333), freshman designated hitter Jenna Modic (.333) and freshman right fielder Taylor Shuey (.318). Ledbetter is the No. 1 power threat with seven home runs and 32 RBIs.
Crowell said the RedHawks are pitching by committee with junior Paige Myers (8-17, 4.32 ERA), sophomore Megan Mattera (6-8, 3.67) and freshman Modic (5-7, 5.44). All have thrown at least 90 innings.
“I don’t have a No. 1 pitcher right now,” Crowell said. “We are a pitching staff, which is very different from what Miami’s been used to. I need all three of my pitchers to step up and have a good week.”
MU, which has just 14 players on its roster, is the defending tournament champion, yet was picked fourth in the East Division this year.
“To be honest, I would’ve thought we’d have more wins, but being picked fourth and finishing second, I think that’s an accomplishment,” Crowell said. “I just have high standards. I’m not happy being second in the division. I always expect us to do better.
“We have what we need to win, and I expect us to make a good showing this week. We’ve had glimpses of greatness this year, and if we can put everything together, we’re a pretty tough team to beat.”
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