Plagued by inconsistency for much of the 2013 season, the Southwestern Illinois College Blue Storm hope the best is yet to come this week as it heads into the NJCAA Region 24 softball playoffs.
Seeded seventh, SWIC (13-24) will host No. 10 seed Shawnee in a first-round best-of-3 series beginning at 2 p.m. on Wednesday.
SWIC, which defeated Shawnee 4-3 and 8-4 in its only meeting this season, has lost seven of its last eight games,
Because of that fact alone, coach Kathy Bernal said he isn't taking Shawnee lightly.
"Just because we beat them and they're the No. 10 seed, I'm hoping we're not looking past Shawnee. We've been so up and down, we can't afford to look past anybody,'' Bernal said. "It's been tough for us to really become consistent because of the weather this spring.
"We'd play well for a few days then we'd go four or five days without playing. We also got backed up with some stretches where we'd play 10 games in five or six days. It's been a tough spring, but the first game against Kaskaskia yesterday (Monday) where we won 4-1 we played the best game we've played all year. I'm hoping that carries over to the playoffs.''
If the two teams split on Wednesday, a third game would be played at 2 p.m. on Thursday.
The winner Shawnee-SWIC series travels to Wabash Valley College to take on the Warriors in a best-of-3 series beginning on Friday.
Blue Storm baseball
Despite dropping two out of three games to John A. Logan College over the weekend, the SWIC baseball team currently holds down the sixth and final spot for the NJCAA Region 24 playoffs which will be held May 9-12 at Kaskaskia College.
Currently 21-16 for the season and 10-11 in Region 24 play, the Blue Storm holds a one-game lead over Lincoln Trail (9-12) with six games remaining.
"Actually its a half-game lead because if we tie for sixth place in the region, they (Lincoln Trail) are in because they beat us two out of three games this season,'' SWIC coach Neil Fiala explained. "We've got our work cut out for us because of who we have to play yet, but hopefully we can stay hot and get on a little roll here.''
SWIC plays four of its final six games on the road. The Blue Storm will host Kaskaskia (15-6) on Thursday then will travel to Centralia to battle Kaskaskia in a doubleheader on Saturday.
SWIC then hosts Region 24 leading Wabash Valley (18-3) on May 3 before closing its regular season on May 4 with a doubleheader at Wabash Valley.
Sophomore leadoff hitter Clayton Meyer leads the Blue Storm in hitting with a .428 average with four triples, 15 doubles, 20 stolen bases and 23 RBI's.
The Blue Storm got a lift on Sunday when sophomore Sean Hulse pitched six strong innings in a 5-2 loss at John A. Logan College. A graduate of Belleville West, Hulse has been bothered by a sore pitching elbow for most of the season.
Fiala also said that closer Tycen Wager (Mascoutah) will undergo shoulder surgery on Wednesday and will miss the remainder of the season.
Contact reporter Dean Criddle at 239-2661 or firstname.lastname@example.org