Vying for a spot in Oklahoma City


Sophomore Abi Corbett lifting up freshman teammate Kylie Westbrooks as the team celebrates a walk-off victory on Lea Kungle Field at the Pat Lipira Softball Complex against Fort Hays State on Mar. 12, 2016. Westbrooks drove in the game-winning run for her first collegiate walk-off. Westbrooks, a Augusta, Kan. native has started all 47 games at shortstop for the Lions this season. She’s one of four freshman to start 30+ games for the Lions this season.

The Missouri Southern softball team honored its four seniors on senior day against Lincoln at the newly dedicated Pat Lipira Softball Complex on Apr. 2, 2016. 

It’s been a tough ride for seniors Alana Hester, Sarah Williams, Ashley Lutz, and Michala Wood as prior to the start of this season, they’d won only 38 percent of their games at Southern. The most wins they’ve had in a season were 26, and that was as freshman. The number of wins decreased over the next two seasons but this season they stand in position to eclipse that mark and clinch a spot in the MIAA tournament in Oklahoma City, Okla.

“We bring up the conference tournament a lot, we talk about it because none of my players now have made a conference tournament,” said interim head coach Melissa Chmielewski. “Especially, for my seniors, it’s always been something they’ve thought about and wanted to get. They’ve worked really hard this year and raised the bar.”

“As freshman we want to fight for our seniors,” said freshman infielder Ashley Caldarella. “I want to win games so badly for our seniors. We love them so much.”

Southern (22-25, 9-9 MIAA) currently sits in seventh place in the conference with eight games remaining in the regular season. Southern has won seven of their last 10 games as they split the doubleheader with Lincoln, swept Lindenwood on Pat Lipira Dedication Day, and split the series with Rogers State on Wednesday in their last home games of the season.

This was a program trending in the wrong direction before Chmielewski stepped in as interim coach. In her first season, she’s won 20+ games, something that hasn’t been done since 2013. Right now, she has her team in position to play in the MIAA tournament which hasn’t been done since 2011.

Chmielewski said she has notice a huge difference and a lot of growth in her young team now compared to where they were in the opening tournament on Feb. 5.

“People were trying to play above what they capable of. In that process they made a lot of mistakes. There’s a lot more leadership on the field. I think our confidence overall has improved a lot,” said Chmielewski.

Southern has eight games remaining on the season. All eight games are against four of the top five teams in the conference. Southern will be on the road in all eight games.