MORRIS – May has been anything but flowery to the Morris softball team, which was doing just fine while it was dodging the showers of April.
Apart from a 10-2 win at Rochelle, the Redskins are winless this month. And after they were 5-0 and 15-1 at points earlier this season, they're a still-good-but-not-dominant, 17-6 overall, following Friday's 11-3 home loss to Minooka.
To some degree, the Redskins' struggles are schedule-related – in addition to defending state champion Minooka, they've played some of the top dogs in the Northern Illinois Big 12 East lately. To some degree, they're a matter of them not getting a bounce at the right time – before Friday, every one of their losses was by three runs are fewer. And to some degree, they're inexplicable to the team.
"I wish I knew the answer to that," Morris coach Jen Lowery said Friday when I asked her how Morris can get back to its earlier rate of success.
"Some people have been consistent throughout the season. Some people are starting to bounce back. It's just we gotta start putting things together as a team. So hopefully a couple days of rest and practice and we can get back at it."
Friday's game was the fifth in five days for the Redskins, who had played road games every day from Monday through Friday. That grind may have been catching up to them when Minooka rolled into town.
"I don't think we've fallen off. We've got some things to work on that we didn't realize we had to work on in the beginning of the season," Morris third baseman Lauren Severson said. "We've had a long week, and we have practices that we need to work on those things, and I think we can get right back up to where we were and even higher. I think we still have a good chance to turn it around."
But I don't think it's fair or accurate to say that the Redskins weren't "up" for Friday's game. Not only was it their first chance to play on their own field in more than a week, it also was a game against arguably their biggest rival and a chance to play elite competition. Their was a big, enthusiastic crowd on hand. The Redskins may have been tired, but I don't think the score was a product of a lack of intensity or energy.
"It was something that we looked forward to," Severson said of the game.
Could that mean Minooka is just eight runs better than Morris? Two weeks ago, when the Redskins were rolling along and the Indians weren't — at least not to the same degree – that would've seemed a stretch, even with strength of schedule qualifiers factored in. An argument, that there's that big a discrepancy between the teams, would at least have some real merit, judging by today's standings.
I still don't think it's the case. I think Minooka is the better team, but I think that the Redskins, when playing well, would give the Indians the game. The problem for Morris may be as simple as that it's just not playing really well right now, and the reality may be that it's better than it's been lately, even if it was never quite as good as it looked for the first month of the season.
"I would say no," Lowery said when I asked if Minooka had seen the Redskins' best on Friday. "We've been flat the last couple weeks. We've been talking about it, trying to find a way out of it. We're in a bit of a downward spiral right now, so hopefully next week, it's a new week, we'll bounce back, get ready for regionals."