Softball drops three of four as Venturella returns to Chicago

Jon Lewis | Senior Sports Editor

It was a bittersweet homecoming for Washington University softball team head coach Michelle Venturella this weekend. Venturella returned to the city where she spent eight seasons and won 195 games as the head coach of the University of Illinois at Chicago, when the Bears travelled to the Windy City to take on the University of Chicago. The series, however, was largely disappointing for Wash. U., which dropped three out of four games.

The Bears did get off to a good start Saturday afternoon, with junior pitcher Anna McKee continuing her superb season with a four-hit, complete game shutout.

Junior Anna McKee pitches during a doubleheader against Monmouth University in March. The Bears dropped three of four games at University of Chicago this weekend.Courtesy of Chris Mitchell

Junior Anna McKee pitches during a doubleheader against Monmouth University in March. The Bears dropped three of four games at University of Chicago this weekend.

“I think she’s just continuing to be stronger,” Venturella said of her star pitcher, who struck out 10 in her seventh complete game of the season.

McKee got all the run support she would need in the first inning. With runners on the corners, Taylor Arends stepped up to the plate and hit a three-run home run, for what would prove to be both the first and last score of the game. Venturella had high praise for Arends after the game, commending both her hitting and leadership skills.

“Even when she’s not hitting well, she’s just such a spark for the team.” Venturella said.

Neither the Bears nor the Maroons would be able to find any offensive rhythm for the rest of the game, and Wash. U. took the game 3-0.

While the Bears’ offensive struggles would continue into the second game, Chicago would find their rhythm. Most of the scoring would once again occur in the early part of the game. Chicago jumped out to 2-0 lead off of two hits in the bottom of the second, and added a third in the next inning.

Wash. U. got on the board in the fourth frame with an RBI single to left-center from Hannah Mehrle. The nascent comeback was stalled, however, when Arends struck out to end the inning, and the Bears could not find any offensive momentum for the rest of the game.

“The Chicago pitchers, I think, did well as a team,” Venturella said about her team’s offensive struggles.

She did add, however, that she thought that her team’s batting could still use some work, and that they took the wrong approach at the plate against Chicago’s shift.

“We’re just trying to battle through some tough times, like all teams do during the course of a season,” she said.

For a moment on Sunday, it looked as if the Bears had found their swing, taking a 1-0 lead on an RBI single by Janet Taylor in the top of the second. The offense, however, stalled once again; and when Chicago scored two in the bottom of the third, and another in the bottom of the second, Wash. U. had no response.

It went from bad to worse for the Bears on Sunday, as they were shut out 4-0 in the final game of the series. This time, it took longer for any offense to take shape. Chicago took a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the third. Junior starter Maggie Clapp continued to pitch well, but Chicago added two more in the bottom of the fifth, and the Bears could not get on base. McKee allowed one run in relief in the sixth, bringing the final score to 4-0.

After spending the last two weekends far away from their home on the South 40, the Bears now host 12 straight games. Venturella said that while away series are a reality for any team, it will be nice to play a few home games. “Every softball team has to play on the road,” she said. “The bigger impact is the travel days, when the kids have to study.” Venturella said that the comfort of sleeping in their own beds is a nice bonus.

The Bears open up their stretch of home games Friday, when they host Case Western Reserve University in a four-game series.

Additional reporting by Rohan Gupta

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