BILLINGS — It hasn’t been a poor season for the Billings West softball team. It just hasn’t been what the Golden Bears were expecting.
So last week, after a loss to Billings Skyview, a bit of self-evaluation and a lineup shakeup seemed in order.
Seven days later, the Bears had scored 32 runs in three games, all victories, the latest being an 11-1 win Tuesday night over the Falcons that was ended after six innings due to the mercy rule.
The mini-hot stretch has seen West’s record move to 11-3 and has given the Bears a better outlook on things.
“Winning is fun,” West coach Preston Sanders said. “But the mindset, the attitude, the way they carry themselves has changed. The last few practices, the last few games, we're just trying to keep it fun for them.”
The revamped lineup has certainly helped. Marleigh Nieto is 6 for 11 with eight runs scored since she moved up to the top of the order from her usual spot in the six hole. Ashley Wik moved up from No. 3 to No. 2, and she’s responded by going 7 for 11 with six runs scored.
For her part, Nieto isn’t sure if the lineup switch has been the key, or if the Bears are simply starting to hit like they thought they would. It doesn’t matter to her, either. She just likes how her team has responded to last week’s 7-2 home loss to Skyview.
“I just think we had a better outlook,” said Nieto, who had three hits and scored four times on Tuesday. “I think we had a lot more intensity before this game. Last week, we didn’t have that. Going into this game we were more prepared mentally and physically. I’m really proud of how we played, we played really well.”
Wik also had three hits, and she, Avery Martin and Chloe Nelson all drove in two runs. Alison Eldridge limited the Falcons to two hits and struck out five while also pitching around five walks. Eldridge shrugged off her performance, giving the credit to her teammates, who did make one error but also made some nice plays in behind her.
“I just really trust my defense,” she said. “Literally, I have so much trust in my defense. I can turn around with two outs and just go back to the dugout because I know they’re going to get the third out.”
Skyview (6-6) is in the midst of a stretch of eight games in eight days, so maybe the Falcons can take a page from the Bears' book: Keep looking forward.
“It hurts to lose a crosstown game, but our goal is we want to be peaking in two weeks,” Falcon said. “We’re going to keep our heads up and that’s what we’re going to keep striving for is to be playing our best softball at divisionals.”
Email Mike Scherting at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter at @GazSportsSchert