WOU’s Ashlie Gardner, center, celebrates after scoring the game-winner Sunday in a 4-3 victory over Saint Martin’s in Game 2 of a doubleheader. // Photo by Nicole Watkins
Polk County Itemizer-Observer
By Nicole Watkins
MONMOUTH — Down three runs entering the bottom of the seventh inning Sunday, the mood in the Western Oregon University softball dugout was anything but bleak.
The Wolves will tell you they already knew they were going to win.
“Gosh, I tell you, we’ve done it a few times now and you can just feel it with this group,” first-year WOU coach Lonny Sargent said. “They’re finishing games, which is just incredible to watch.”
A week after sophomore Amanda Evola’s walk-off blast lifted Western Oregon to victory over Concordia, the Wolves found a different way to win in Sunday’s second game against Great Northwest Athletic Conference opponent Saint Martin’s, 4-3.
Ashlie Gardner got things started with her RBI single up the middle to score pinch-runner Danielle Hannan.
Then WOU took advantage of two SMU errors — kickstarted by an Ali Parkerson grounder to the shortstop — to score both the tying and winning run in one crazy, final play.
“As soon as I saw that they overthrew the pitcher, I was like, `I’m going,'” Gardner, who slid under Saints’ catcher Aubree Pocklington for the game-winner, said. “Then I scored at home, which was awesome — it was really exciting.”
What may be more exciting is the Wolves’ 4-0 start to the GNAC season.
Photo by Nicole Watkins
WOU’s Hannah Pomeroy, left, fires a pitch during Game 1 against Saint Martin’s Sunday. Pomeroy picked up the 6-2 victory and added a solo home run in the win.
Western (13-12) used a five-RBI, two-double performance from Jourdan Williams in Game 1 to jump on SMU (11-7, 2-2) early in the opener, a 6-2 win that was capped by a sixth-inning solo home run by Hannah Pomeroy.
Friday, WOU swept Montana State Billings in their conference-opening doubleheader, 6-0 and 1-0.
Pomeroy, who picked up game-opening wins in the circle against MSUB and SMU, said that at this point, she and her teammates’ success has simply been about believing in themselves.
When you’re a team that was picked to finish fifth in the GNAC preseason coaches’ poll — while MSUB and SMU was chosen to place first and second, respectively — it has to be.
“I knew we were going to win and I think everybody in the dugout knew we were going to win the game,” Pomeroy said of Sunday’s second contest against SMU, which entered the day on a seven-game winning streak.
Pomeroy also added a big blast in Friday’s opening win over MSUB, smashing a grand slam home run in the contest to give the senior four long balls on the year.
Photo by Nicole Watkins
WOU’s Jourdan Williams tosses the ball back to first base for an out during Game 2 against Saint Martin’s Sunday.
“And that’s not being cocky, that’s just we believe in our teammates so much and we believe in everybody getting the job done so we know good things are going to happen.”
While Evola (.410, 25 hits and five HRs) continues to lead the Wolves at the plate, Pomeroy (5-3, 4.40 ERA) and Williams (2-5, 4.38) have stepped up in the circle.
Williams, who pitched just 14.1 innings in seven appearances in 2012, has made the biggest adjustment.
“I don’t have the words to talk about Jourdan right now just because she is taking on her role as a pitcher and she is absolutely running with it,” Pomeroy said of Williams, who also boasts a .328 batting average with 12 RBI.
“Her ball is moving, she has people guessing all the time … she’s literally throwing lights out right now. We all knew that she had that potential, I think she just needed to believe it herself.”
So far, the Wolves are believing that they can compete for a conference title.
“They believe in themselves and that was the whole goal for us as coaches was trying to get them to believe that they can play (with anyone),” Sargent said, while referring to last season’s strong finish that saw WOU win 15 of its final 20 games.
“They’ve just done everything we’ve asked, they work hard every day and they’re starting to believe they can do it.”