ATLANTA – After taking a 2-0 lead over Georgia State on a Kelsey McGuffin home run, the Panthers were able to claw their way back into the NISC Region 5 elimination game and top WKU Softball, 3-2. The Hilltoppers’ 2017 season concludes with an even 31-31 record despite the squad of 16 featuring 10 new faces.
“Today was a close game and we were able to give ourselves opportunities to pull back ahead, but unfortunately we weren’t able to come out on top,” head coach Amy Tudor said. “We left a couple runners 60 feet away from home with less than two outs on both occasions, which could have been the difference.”
Tommi Stowers got on board as the Red and White’s lead off after sending a double off the left-field wall. A Brittany Vaughn ground out moved Stowers to third before Stowers was thrown out on a fielder’s choice for the second out of the frame. With a 3-1 count on her, McGuffin sent her second home run of the season over the left-field fence to put WKU ahead, 2-0.
The score would remain the same until Georgia State got on the board in the top of the fourth inning. With two away, Georgia State’s first baseman sent a single to left-center field to pull the Panthers within one of the Red and White.
Taylor Proctor led off the bottom of the fourth with a single through the right side and moved into scoring position following a successful sacrifice bunt by Haylee Towers. The senior catcher would ultimately go down as one of six Hilltoppers left on base in the contest.
Georgia State took the lead in the top of the sixth following a bit of small ball despite Kathryn Downing registering her fourth strike out of the day from the circle.
Rebekah Engelhardt open the bottom of the sixth by sending the first pitch she saw down the left-field line for a double. Proctor moved her teammate to third base with a sacrifice bunt for the first out. Engelhardt ended up stranded, however, after the next two batters went down in order.
Downing took the loss in the circle, finishing her senior campaign with a record of 16-15. The four-year Hilltopper’s 2.40 career ERA ranks as the fourth-best mark in program history.
Downing’s fellow senior, Proctor, claimed the program’s single-season hit by pitch record with 25 during her final campaign on The Hill. Proctor ranks second on the career hit by pitch list. Behind the plate, Proctor gunned down 18 runners trying to steal in 2017, a mark that ranks second in single-season standings and sixth in career history for the Hilltoppers, despite competing just two seasons at WKU.
“We lose two players to graduation in Downing and Proctor and greatly appreciate the contributions they made during their time wearing the Red and White for us,” Tudor continued.
WKU Softball’s 31-31 campaign marks the program’s 13th 30-win season. The team was able to exceed expectations after the league coaches predicted a 10th-place finish by the Hilltoppers back in early February.
“The experience that our nine freshman were able to gain this year, along with the rest of the team, especially in the postseason, will prove to aid us as we move forward,” Tudor shared. “We are proud of this team, their fight and all the successes from this year.”