Seeking footholds on spots in both the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Tournament and the NCAA Division II postseason, Ashland University's softball team will begin a stretch of key home conference games with doubleheaders at Brookside Park against Hillsdale on Friday (April 10) and Lake Erie on Saturday (April 11).
The Eagles are 23-5 overall and 8-4 in the GLIAC. They will play back-to-back twinbills after the original matchups against the Chargers, scheduled for Wednesday (April 8), were pushed back to Friday due to rain.
"It's amazing that we're getting to this point and time of the season and see that your last home game is coming around the corner," said Ashland head coach Sheilah Gulas. "Hopefully, the temperatures are going to stay on the upswing, and we've been real fortunate so far that we haven't had a lot of cancellations."
Ashland sits fifth in the GLIAC standings with a .667 winning percentage, behind Walsh (8-1, .889), Grand Valley State (9-2, .818), Tiffin (8-2, .800) and Wayne State (7-2, .778).
Hillsdale is 11-13 overall and 2-4 in the conference and is coming off two five-inning home wins against non-GLIAC opponent Lourdes. The Storm is 7-13, 1-7 going into its home doubleheader on Friday with Saginaw Valley State before traveling to Ashland.
Eagles vs. Chargers and Storm
Ashland split with Hillsdale in 2014, winning 5-3 and losing 1-0. The Eagles swept both games last spring at Lake Erie, 7-2 and 11-3 in five innings.
"Hillsdale's always been a team that you've got to come out and play," said Gulas. "We need to find a way to get the early run and hold them. Both teams have good speed, so we have to keep them off the bases. That's definitely going to be the key for us, limited their base runners and get as many as we can."
The Eagles are closing fast on their win total of all of 2014 (27), and could match it with two sweeps this weekend. Ashland is in the hunt for its best single-season win total since 2012 (42-17).
"I really feel that with our junior and senior class, we have grown with them and a lot of the things that we worked on as they were young, they're finally getting it," Gulas said. "We're doing things that are going to make us successful. I really think it's a credit to the hard work they've put in during the season and in the offseason."
Moore Making Her Case
Junior first baseman Jen Moore is making a strong bid for first-team All-GLIAC status this spring. She sports a .396 batting average with six home runs (one shy of her career high), 28 RBIs, 20 runs scored, six doubles and a triple.
"Jen's really been seeing the ball real well. She comes up to the plate with a lot of confidence," said Gulas. "She's been great starting things for us, and she's been great coming up with runners in scoring position. It's been great to see her get her confidence back. She's been doing a great job."
Ashland Getting Group-Effort Pitching
All four hurlers have at least five wins (Flanigan leads with seven), and Flanigan, Alley and Galloway each have two saves. Alley is the pitcher with the hot hand of late, taking an 18-inning scoreless streak into the weekend.
LSU's softball team has taken to calling its four pitchers the "Fantastic Four." Gulas has done the same for her four.
"Each of our pitchers has really contributed greatly to the success of this year's team," said Gulas. "They blend in well together, and they each bring differences, so that they can be in the role of either starter or reliever in any situation."