Softball splits opening weekend in Memphis


No one was panicking Saturday evening.
After losing its first two games of the season, players of the DePauw softball team admitted there were opportunities missed to come away with two wins.
But the Tigers weren't phased, and instead, took the losses as learning opportunities and rebounded.
DePauw came away from the campus of Rhodes College with an even record, 2-2, and a realization of strengths and some early weaknesses. In both losses on Saturday to Rhodes and University of Wisconsin-Platteville, errors in late innings were too costly to overcome.
It's those four errors during intermittent snow flurries and piercing cold that made the difference in the results, but it didn't unnerve head coach Erica Hanrahan.
"They were playing with a lot of aggression and excitement," the first-year coach said. "What happened was there were routine plays. They were pressing because they wanted to win so bad because it was their first outing."
In the season opener against Rhodes, DePauw went down 2-0 in the third inning, but the Tigers scored three runs on back-to-back doubles by Amy Hallett and Linsey Button and then Haleigh Chasteen hit a two-run home run - her first career home run in her second collegiate at-bat - to gain the lead, 3-2.
In the decisive sixth inning with the Tigers still leading by one, Rhodes loaded the bases with two outs in the frame, and scored two runs when senior Alison Towery committed an error at first base. 
Emily Bichler took the loss in the contest after giving up just two earned runs while striking out four. The senior also walked four batters.
"It wasn't my best first game of the season," she said. "I think having the new fielders behind me, the cold weather and just having new coaches all contributed to my performance."
In the second game of Saturday against Wisconsin-Platteville, DePauw scored the game's first run in the top of the fifth, then in the bottom half, Tigers' pitcher Emily Dieckmann was charged with six earned runs after tallying the first two outs in the inning.
DePauw went on to lose 8-1, and begin the season 0-2 for the first time since 2004.
"Everyone was kind of shocked, no one wants to start the season losing two games," Bichler said. "I wasn't personally worried about it... Some people had a hard time with it, but we have a really new team. We have a lot of upperclassmen who haven't played."
Added Hanrahan, "Our seniors needed to settle down. They will be major contributors and factors in the success of the team. It's 70 percent of a mental game, and you have to get yourself in the right mental framework.
"There wasn't really time to dwell on the negative."
On Sunday, Chasteen made her first start on the mound against Rhodes. The freshman tossed a complete game giving up two earned runs, striking out five and walking six. DePauw won its first game of the season backed by three RBI's from senior Gwen Anderson, 6-3.
In the afternoon against Wisconsin-Platteville, Bichler, a native of Belgium, Wisc., took to the pitcher's circle and shut down the Pioneers for three innings. The senior surrendered two runs in the third, but the Tigers already held a five run advantage backed by freshman Sammi Bell's two RBI's.
"I think my performance on Sunday was much more representative of how I pitch in the season," Bichler said. "It helped that it was 10 or five degrees warmer, and my hand didn't feel like it was going to fall off. I felt more comfortable in the circle, and I didn't feel pressured to perform. I felt more comfortable with the people around me."
Bichler led a contingent of five Tigers pitchers during the weekend. Hanrahan said Bichler, Dieckmann and Chasteen all earned starting roles, and Hailey Freres and Kahla Nolan will make appearances in tight situations.
"I thought they both responded well to it," Hanrahan said of Freres and Nolan in relief duties. "Dieckmann and Chasteen had tremendous outings."
On the offensive end, Hallett led the charge with 10 total bases backed by four doubles. She and sophomore Jennifer Ridge - who hit leadoff - both chipped in with six hits, and both have an on base percentage of more than .533.
"Amy loves and thrives in pressure situations with runners on base, and she was able to do that," Hanrahan said. "(Ridge and Hallett) really showed a good tandem. Sammy Bell and Catherin Conte came up huge in multiple games."
DePauw next travels to Georgia for six games in the NFCA leadoff classic. The Tigers will face State University of New York College at Cortland, Claremont McKenna College and Christopher Newport University.
"It's not how you start the season its how you finish it," Hanrahan said. "If you have a few peaks and valleys in the first part of the season, I can live with that. We have six huge games coming in to this weekend facing top competition."