The final regular-season weekend of Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference softball play is coming up, and Ashland University's softball team still is fighting for positioning in the 2015 GLIAC Tournament, May 1-3 in Findlay, Ohio.
The Eagles, 32-6 overall and 17-5 in the GLIAC, will play on Friday (April 24) at Northwood, then return home for the regular-season finale on Saturday (April 25) at Brookside West against Lake Superior State, a doubleheader which originally was scheduled as a road twinbill.
Ashland, ranked third in the Midwest Region and 21st in Division II, is 1½ games behind first-place Wayne State and percentage points behind second-place Saginaw Valley State.
"Going into this last weekend, there's a lot of great matchups, and you've got a lot of people fighting to be in the top eight," said Ashland head coach Sheilah Gulas. "Our vision is to compete and finish as the GLIAC regular-season champion. The girls believe in that. You can see the fight and determination this team has."
AU had its 11-game winning streak snapped in the second game of a home doubleheader with Findlay on Tuesday (April 23). The 7-6 loss was the Eagles' first by a single run since Game 1 on March 29 at home against the Warriors (3-2).
Northwood is 15-22, 12-10, and swept Ferris State at home on Wednesday (April 22) to snap a four-game losing streak, while Lake Superior State is 11-24, 4-17, and has lost six straight going into its twinbill on Friday at Lake Erie.
Eagles vs. Timberwolves and Lakers
In 2014, Ashland and Northwood split a doubleheader at Brookside Park, with the Eagles winning 8-5 and the Timberwolves taking a 9-6 decision.
AU and LSSU played a wild doubleheader in Ashland last spring, with the Lakers taking a 12-11, 11-inning decision and the Eagles winning, 7-1.
"Northwood graduated a lot of players from last year's team that was very successful," Gulas said. "Right now, they're fighting to get into the GLIAC Tournament, so we just have to come out against them and put the pressure on them early and keep the pressure on them. Teams that are fighting to get in are tough to beat, and you don't want to give them any kind of an edge.
"Lake Superior hits the ball. That's a strength that they've always had. Our key thing is to just limit their hits. The big thing for us this weekend is getting a lot of baserunning opportunities, trying to find a way to get on base."
Not One, But Two Extended Winning Streaks
Of Ashland's 32 wins, 23 came in two extended winning streaks – a 12-gamer from March 5-24 and an 11-gamer from April 4-21.
To put those two streaks in perspective – only five GLIAC schools have won 23 games total this spring.
Raguz Finding Her Form
Sophomore right fielder Jenny Raguz has taken advantage of more plate appearances of late. Returning to form after injury, Raguz is 7-for-13 with two doubles, a home run and six RBIs since April 4.
"Jenny's been getting a little bit better every game, and a lot more confident at the plate," Gulas said. "She definitely makes our lineup stronger when she's in there."
Upper Peninsula Trips Not In The Cards
The Eagles have been scheduled to play the Lakers up north in recent years, including this one, but haven't played at LSSU since a doubleheader on April 25, 2009.