Softball closes out season against Omaha Mavericks

David Koier, Courier Staff

The Western Illinois softball team will travel to Omaha this weekend for their final series of the regular season. The 17-19 Leathernecks (9-6 in conference) face off against the 4-40 (2-13 in conference) Mavericks of the University of Nebraska-Omaha.

The Leathernecks are coming off of a three-game sweep of the Purdue-Fort Wayne Mastodons during senior day last weekend. Western is currently on a six-game winning streak and hopes to close out the regular season with a nine game winning streak heading into The Summit League playoffs.

Omaha, on the other hand, has been struggling as of late. The Mastodons are currently on a six game losing streak having not won a game since April 13, when they beat the Mastodons 9-4.

Western currently is tied for third place with South Dakota State in The Summit League standings just behind North Dakota State and South Dakota, while Omaha sits dead last behind Fort Wayne.

The last time these two teams met was in the 2018 regular season. The three-game series went to Western Illinois who took the series two games to one. Western outscored the Mavericks 12-3 in that series, but it was Omaha who were able to deal the Leathernecks their first conference loss of the season.

Western is led this season by senior ace Emily Ira. The left hander has proven herself to continuously be one of the best pitchers in The Summit League. Ira has staked her claim on The Summit League leaderboards in every statistical category all season. Her 2.52 ERA (third), 12 wins (fourth), 127 strikeouts (second) and one save (fifth) have helped her become one of The Summit Leagues most feared pitchers. Ira’s stellar performance against North Dakota even earned her her first Summit League Pitcher of the Week of the season.

Western’s bats have also been hot this season. Their .251 team average is backed by 150 runs (compared to the 146 scored by opponents) as well as 61 team extra base hits. The Leatherneck offense is led by junior Jasmine Lara and senior Payton Abbot.

Lara, who is the Purple and Gold’s center fielder, leads the team with a .319 batting average. Lara has scored a team leading 26 runs while also hitting three doubles, a triple and recorded six RBIs on the season. Her .450 on-base percentage leads the team making her a strong leadoff hitter, a role she has occupied in every game this season.

Abbott has a .297 batting average, eight doubles and one triple. The senior shortstop leads the team in RBIs with 25 and home runs with four, one of which was a grand slam earlier this season against Power Five team Iowa Hawkeyes of the Big Ten Conference.

The Leathernecks and Mavericks are set to play a three-game series in Omaha at Westside Field at Westbrook this weekend. Games one and two are set to be played in a doubleheader on Saturday with game one scheduled to begin at noon. Game three will be played Sunday at 11 a.m.