It took a little while for the Morningside softball team to get in a rhythm.
The Mustangs seemed to click right away when they won their first two games of the season but the final three games of the Cowtown Classic were rained out.
That started a trend for the Morningside. After splitting their next six games, the Mustangs had a number of games canceled because of the weather. So when Morningside started Great Plains Athletic Conference play on March 22, the Mustangs played only eight games up to that point.
Morningside had to find out what kind of team it is during GPAC play. Morningside lost only four out of its 22 GPAC contests and went into the conference tournament as the No. 2 seed.
In six games at the GPAC tournament, the Mustangs only allowed 10 runs - with five of those coming in one inning - in six games, winning the tournament to claim a spot in the NAIA World Series.
"This team really works well together and they play for each other. One person can't do it alone so this team has stepped up to work hard for each other," Morningside coach Jessica Jones-Sitzmann said. "I like where our team is sitting right now."
Morningside goes into the national tournament ranked No. 24 and is 30-9 on the season. The teams are put into four-team divisions in the opening round. The Mustangs travel to Oklahoma City and are the No. 3 seed in that bracket. Morningside faces Olivet Nazarene, which is ranked No. 16, in the first game at 11:30 a.m. on Monday.
Oklahoma City is the top seed and is ranked No. 3 in the national poll. Friends is the No. 4 seed.
Senior infielder Rebecca Riley said the team is more concerned with just playing a sound game more than which team is what seed.
"If you go into a game expecting to play well, you are going to play well. If you think you don't have what it takes, then you roll over a little bit," Riley said. "I am so happy at the time we are peaking. I think we are playing our best when we are playing relaxed and confident. As long as we stay relaxed and confident in our dugout, we have what it takes and I am really excited."
Offensively, the Mustangs are peaking. The canceled games earlier in the season allowed Morningside to get extra work in the hitting cages. It took a little bit of time for those adjustments to carry over to the field but once it did, the Mustangs started to click.
Morningside is No. 20 in the nation in doubles per game with 1.85 and No. 21 in home runs with 0.82 per game. They are No. 25 in slugging percentage (.500) and No. 28 in runs scored per game (6.33).
Lexie Stolen leads the team with seven home runs and six more players have three or more home runs this season. Ellie Cropley has 16 doubles, Morgan Nixon has 11 and Stolen has 10.
"We had a little bit of a lull earlier in the season but we are clicking right now," Riley said. "We play off each other. If one girl doesn't get it, the next girl will. We can really string some stuff together and I am really excited and happy about that."
The six runs a game is hard for an opponent to catch up. The Mustangs rank 10th in earned run average this season (1.92) and No. 13 in opponents batting average (.218) due in large part to pitcher Hallie Misiaszek.
The senior from Mitchell has a 1.33 ERA this season in 30 games. She's pitched 174 1/3 innings, striking out 119 batters. Opponents are only batting .204 off her.
"I think it's fun being able to help my defense out but also fun having my defense help me out on offense since I don't hit," Misiaszek said. "Having great girls behind me is a big part of my success and attitude, knowing I have such a great team behind me. It boosts my confidence, knowing if someone hits off me, it's going to a great defense behind me. I am confident they will pick me up."
Misiaszek said the team is in a groove going into nationals and it's the perfect time to be in one.
"It's crunch time right now and we are really flowing and it's the best time to be flowing," Misiaszek said. "It feels good winning all of those games in the GPAC tournament but we are always looking ahead and that's regionals now. We all work well together and I think right now we are having a lot of fun."