After dropping two games last weekend, Idaho State now sits in fourth place in a tight Big Sky Conference softball race where all eight teams are separated by no more than two games.
Six teams make the conference tournament at the end of the season and 12 conference games remain on the schedule, three of which are at home against lead-leading Weber State.
“It is a conference one through eight,” said head coach Candi Letts. “It is going to be a dogfight to the top six.”
Weber State, holds a 5-3 conference record while the conference’s last place team, North Dakota, is 3-5 in conference play after picking up two wins in Pocatello last weekend.
“They have been in every ball game,” Letts said on North Dakota. “They have scrapped and they’ve fought. They feel good of where they are at.”
Letts attributed the series loss, which didn’t have a third game because of weather, to a lack of mental focus.
“They have to be more mentally demanding of themselves,” Letts said. “Make adjustments at the plate from at-bat to at-bat.”
The Bengals were shut out in the first game at last Friday’s doubleheader, collecting three hits and three defensive errors.
The second game featured seven ISU base knocks, but the Bengals committed five errors in game two of the series, ultimately leading to a North Dakota seventh inning comeback which ISU was unable to overcome, despite having the game-tying run thrown out at the plate to end the ballgame.
“Our older kids know this, but our young kids are figuring this out, but, you don’t get a day off in conference play,” Letts said. “You don’t get to sit and not compete.”
The series was the first conference series ISU has lost this season.
The team picked up two wins at Sacramento State the previous weekend, backed up by taking two-of-three from Portland State, which are now in seventh place.
The Bengals have won the conference’s regular season title three out of the last four years, lost a host of seniors from last year’s team but still, according to the coach, have a target on their backs.
“We have had a target on our back for some many years, this is a huge win for teams when they beat us,” Letts said. “I think they are learning quick now.”
ISU travels to Southern Utah next weekend, before returning for the final home conference series to play Weber State.
The Bengals closes out the season by traveling to Montana and Northern Colorado.