Three home games to test SJO softball this week

If you haven't been to a St. Joseph-Ogden softball game yet this season, you really need to get over to Randy Wolken Field this week. The Spartans, now 13-1 after defeating Sacred Heart Griffin 19-8 and Mattoon at their invitational last Friday, play three back-to-back home games starting today at 4:30p, at 5p tomorrow and again Wednesday at 4:30p.

The top-ranked Spartans start their three-day home stand today against Unity, who will enter the contest with 15-3 record. Ranked at #10 in the April 8 Class 2A Illinois Coaches Association poll, the Rockets have a lot to prove against the #4 ranked Spartans.

Both teams have defeated four common opponents so far this season. Bismarck-Henning-Rossville-Alvin, Villa Grove, Mattoon and Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley have all fallen prey to the two members of Illini Prairie Conference.

The Rockets shut out two of the four, Mattoon and BHRA, and allowed 13 runs against the other two teams. While SJO has allowed 17 runs against those teams, they put a combined 44 runs, five more than Unity, on the scoreboard against the same four teams.

With less than 24 hours of rest, SJO will be back on the field for a rematch against Mattoon on Tuesday. The Spartans, led by junior Hannah Dukeman defeated the Green Wave 15-5 to win this year's Mattoon Invitational title.

SJO tallied more the 17 hits during the game and freshman Kennedy Hudson pounded her first home run of the 2019 season.

In what could be the most challenging of the three games this week, the ladies will close out the homestand against Mt. Zion. The one-loss Braves have nine wins and a tie as of last Friday, and are ranked 20th in the ICA Class 3A poll. In addition to putting SJO's batting and fielding skills to the test, the game will surely probe the softball team's mental toughness and competitive spirit.

Here are five really good reasons to come out and cheer on the Lady Spartans this week:

The number of home runs hit in the 14 games by the Spartans so far this season. Hannah Dukeman leads the team with 10, Bailey Dowling has pummeled nine and Kaylee Ward has four so far. You don't want to miss one of these ladies clearing the bases with a game-winning grand slam sailing over Grand Ave this week.

With an ERA 1.288, number one pitcher Zoey Witruk (6 wins-1 loss) has collected this many strikeouts so far this season. It will be a treat to watch her frustrate batters as the junior pads her stats with more Ks to her already impressive record.

Estimated average attendance of the last three home games by fans. First year head coach Larry Sparks has the program playing an exciting brand of softball. Admission is free and cheering is always appreciated by the players. As always, SJO softball is worth watching.

The number of seniors on this season's roster. Hannah Lewis, Katy Poulter, Savannah Smith and Ashytn Cromwell together give the team the depth needed to make a deep post season run.

The number of losses The Sentinel expects the Spartans to have after this week of action at The Joe. You won't want to miss one or all three games starting today with friends and neighbors.