Turning it around: Bulldogs win nine in a row after bad start

News-DemocratApril 20, 2013 

— Waterloo coach Sara Renner wasn't worried when her team lost its first five games this season.

Renner knew the Bulldogs would rebound, and now they have with a nine-game winning streak.

"I honestly was not concerned," Renner said. "I knew we would be able to come on by the end of the season. It was just how long it would take. The biggest concern was that the girls were becoming discouraged.

"I didn't want them giving up and thinking it wasn't going to happen. I could see it was there, and a couple of little things here and there made all the difference."

It wasn't like Renner needed to make wholesale changes with a team that had lost no players to graduation after posting 23-6 record last year.

"I think we're finally starting to get confidence at the plate, and also we've moved some people around and I think they're in their normal positions now," Renner said. "We've scored early, which takes the pressure off as well."

The Bulldogs have outscored their opponents 90-12 during the winning streak. They've outscored their last four foes 40-0.

"We have both ends (hitting and pitching) of the game working for us," Renner said. "We're scoring runs early, and putting pressure on the other team. It's also nice to have those shutouts."

Senior Tiffany Harbison is the ace of the Bulldogs' pitching staff.

Harbison is 4-0 and hasn't allowed an earned run. She's struck out 52 batters in 30 innings.

"She's getting a lot of strikeouts, which helps out," Renner said. "It keeps runners off the bases."

Senior Bridget Bushong and freshman Mallory Meyer provide the Bulldogs with pitching depth.

"They all have their strengths, so a lot of times it depends on who we are playing," Renner said of how she decides pitching assignments. "We have Bridget with a little more experience, and even though Mallory Meyer is a freshman, she does a real good job of keeping the ball low. That gets us a lot of grounders."

Sophomore Kylie Albrecht and senior Annie Crouch are fueling the Bulldogs' offense.

Albrecht is batting a team-leading .540 with 24 runs scored, while Crouch is batting .533 with eight doubles, four homers and 22 RBIs.

"Kylie is doing a great job getting on base and Annie is hitting her in," Renner said. "It's a nice little combination."

The Bulldogs also have senior Haley Schlecht, who is hitting. 426 with 19 runs scored and 12 RBIs and junior Taylor Yearian, who is hitting .408 with 13 RBIs.

"Haley has the speed and the short game, but she also can hit the long ball," Renner said. "She is like a triple threat. Taylor Yearian has a lot of power and can drive those runs in as well behind Annie."

Senior Bryce Latchem (.378 batting average, 12 RBIs) and senior Taylor Krekorian (.316 batting average) and senior Maddie Mercer (.273 batting average) also have contributed to the Bulldogs' recent offensive explosion.

The Bulldogs are 9-5 heading into a key Mississippi Conference matchup against the Triad Knights on Monday. Waterloo and Triad tied for the MVC title last season.

"That'll be our test," Renner said.

The Bullodgs will continue a tough week with contests against neighboring rivals Columbia and Gibault on Thursday in the Monroe County Tournament.

Despite the bad start, the Bulldogs have most of their goals still in front of them.

"The conference is still for up for grabs," Renner said. "And, in the regional, it doesn't matter what your record is. It's anyone's game. I think we learned that last year."

After being upset 3-1 by Althoff in the regional title game last year, Renner has the Bulldogs aiming for redemption in the postseason this year.

However, the Bulldogs will be playing in the Class 3A Columbia Regional with the host Eagles, who move up from Class 2A this year.

"With Columbia, it'll be much different," Renner said. "We usually just played them once a year, and that was it. They are a good program, they always have been."

Contact reporter Steve Korte at skorte@bnd.com or 239-2522.

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