Mississippi University for Women’s Bailee Watts reacts Wednesday after scoring the team’s first run of the season in Game 1 of a doubleheader against Rust College. The W opened the year with two 15-0 victories. Photo by: Chris Jenkins/Special to The Dispatch
February 16, 2019 5:21:34 AM
The contents of this article have been modified since its original posting.
At sunrise Tuesday, it was 32 degrees or, as Mississippi University for Women softball coach John Newman calls it, "softball weather."
"I came here from South Dakota," said Newman, the Owls' first-year coach. "It was 66-below there a couple of weeks ago. Believe me, this is not a problem."
Neither were the Rust College Bearcats, as it turned out.
The W swept its season-opening doubleheader at home against Rust (0-4), winning 17-0 in five innings in the opener before finishing it off with another 15-0 victory.
In Game 1, The W scored two runs in the first inning, which was all of the support starting pitcher Madison Scoggin needed. Scoggin pitched a no-hitter and allowed one runner by a hit-by-pitch.
"I started out as a pitching coach and now, in my first game as a head coach, my pitcher throws a no-hitter," Newman said. "That's pretty good, right?"
Scoggin pitched to contact, striking out three.
"I'm not a big strikeout pitcher," the senior from Hattiesburg said. "For me, it's about spinning the ball and finding my groove. I'm not afraid to pitch to contact because I know my defense has my back."
The Owls' hitting and defense weren't too shabby, either.
The W had nine hits, including doubles by catcher Brianna Duquette and Kendall Wilkinson, and scored in each of the first four innings, including a 10-run third.
The Owls drew also drew seven walks and benefitted from four errors.
Duquette had another sure double to left center in the fourth that was wiped off the scorebook when a runner left third base early.
"That's OK," Duquette said. "The most important thing was really making good contact. I think we all bought in the new coach's hitting program, so it was nice to see it pay off in a real game."
Said Newman, "(Duquette) really hit the ball hard and (Kendall) Wilkinson did, too."
Wilkinson had three RBIs, while Duquette and Kristen Martin drove in two runs.
Wilkinson, a senior from Mathiston, also flashed the leather at third, spearing two hard-hit grounders down the line in the fifth and turning them into outs to end the game.
"She has one of the strongest arms on our team," Newman said. "You know if she fields it, you're going to get an accurate throw with something on it."
Things couldn't have gone much better in his debut, Newman said.
"Pitching, hitting defense, everything was pretty good," Newman said. "And, wow, the crowd, too. To look up and see about 200 people in the stands, that was great."
In Game 2, senior pitcher Ciara Steward threw a no-hitter and struck out five. The five strikeouts is the second most of career as an Owl.
The Owls scored six runs in the bottom of the first. Wilkinson ripped a two-run double, while Madison Fields and Emily Littlejohn singled in runs. Courtney Hatcher earned an RBI on a fielder's choice, and Kandler Flora scored on a walk by Bailee Watts.
The Owls tacked on five runs in the third. Flora, Martin, and Mackenzie Harris had singles.
Rachel Rooney doubled for in three runs and Jana Kay Newell singled in Rooney to account for the final score.
The W will play host to Crowley's Ridge at 1 p.m. Saturday in a doubleheader at Don Usher Field.
Slim Smith is a columnist and feature writer for The Dispatch. His email address is [email protected]
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