GGC softball wrapped up their 2019 regular season with a doubleheader split, ending with a game two statement win against the University of Mobile Rams.
Sophomore Piper Wagner threw a complete game shutout in the 2-0 victory and hit her fourth home run of the year against the sixth-ranked team in the country. Wagner’s performance also earned her A.I.I. Pitcher of the Week.
After a few rough pitching outings since coming back from an ankle injury, Wagner bounced back strong with her tenth win on the season, six of which have been shutouts.
“I think it was more mental for me to get back to 100%. I needed to get confidence back in my pitches,” Wagner said.
Head Coach Kat Ihlenburg addressed the recent trend of doubleheader splits and stated that teams have been game planning differently than usual.
“The last two and a half seasons, Taylor has really been a force in the NAIA. She has been a true ace. So, we are throwing her like we always have in game one, and we look at the other teams and they are throwing their pitcher, that by all accounts statistically should be their number one, in game two,” Coach Ihlenburg said.
The Friday doubleheader against Mobile was only the fifth time all season the Grizzlies had lost the first game of a doubleheader but have dropped five game twos in April alone.
With the recent lack of wins in the second game, Coach Ihlenburg admitted some adjustments in mindset need to be made.
“We’ve lost certain games to certain programs that is just uncharacteristic for the caliber we could play at all times,” Coach Ihlenburg said. “Knowing the talent is so strong within the team, it almost seems like there has just been an overall complacency in game two because we’re that good. Friday we saw that will to win come out in game two.”
Heading into the post-season, Coach Ihlenburg has shifted the team mindset away from “x’s and o’s” to what each player brings to the field each day. There is an actual ticket method she has created and used lately to help assist in this shift in focus.
“Each ticket says, ‘Today I will bring…’ and you write down something positive to bring every day. You have to submit your ticket to get into Club Grizzly. It’s usually stuff like a smile, no negative talk, hard work, and passion,” senior shortstop Tori Robinson said.
In preparing for the playoffs physically, Coach said that repetition will be the most important factor. As far as mentally, not only can they work on what they are bringing day in and day out, but there has been quite a bit of talk of being more aggressive and present-minded.
“We just tend to compile our mistakes right now, unfortunately,” said Coach Ihlenburg in response to a question of what the team’s biggest adjustment needs to be to make a deep post-season run.
Coach Ihlenburg stressed that if the girls can continue to play in the moment, not carrying mistakes from the field to the plate, they will have a great chance to put together a winning streak at the right time.
When asked what change they thought needed to be made the most within the team for playoff success, many players agreed that the aggressiveness needs to go up.
“We need to be more like predators and attack, really put the pressure on the other team,’” said senior outfielder Aubree Cox who has the second highest batting average at .407 and currently stands tied for third on the team in RBI’s with 38. “For me personally, I just need to flush all my past at-bats and plays-away and succeed the next play, staying relaxed.”
The A.I.I. conference tournament begins at the Grizzly Softball Complex this Thursday, May 2. Catch the Grizzlies in action this weekend as they battle for a spot in the NAIA Opening Round looking to advance to their second consecutive NAIA World Series.