March 30, 2012
Diamond ‘Cats no stranger to pain
By David Boyce
So often you hear athletes in a bit of a slump say they are not going to use injury as an excuse for their performance when they are actually doing exactly that.
Northwest Missouri State junior pitcher Jenna Creger is not in that category.
Back in early March, Creger was selected MIAA softball player of the week. She struck out 15 batters in two games and dropped her ERA to 1.88.
Since then, the numbers have not been as good for Creger. Her record is 4-6 and her ERA has climbed to 4.26.
Creger is a key component for the Bearcats. As a sophomore she was 15-10 with a 2.11 ERA.
Obviously, Northwest needs her to be on her game to win on a consistent basis.
The Bearcats have struggled lately. They snapped a nine game losing streak Wednesday by winning the second game of a doubleheader against Rockhurst, 6-0.
“I’d say I’ve been struggling lately,” Creger said. “I have kind of been in a slump myself. Hopefully, I can work myself out of that and help the team more.”
During a telephone interview, Creger never gave the slightest indication that she was hurt to the point she can’t pitch this week.
Creger was upbeat about the Bearcats using the next week of facing nonconference opponents to get them back on track when they return to MIAA play April 6 against Southwest Baptist.
Northwest, 12-18 overall and 2-8 in the MIAA, returns to action Saturday with a doubleheader at Central Oklahoma followed by a doubleheader at Northeastern Oklahoma on Sunday.
“I think they are important to help get our confidence back and hopefully once we get that back, we can be successful in conference games,” Creger said. “We are excited to hopefully turn things around and get a couple of wins.
“Northeastern and Central Oklahoma are always good teams so it is fun playing them because they are really competitive.”
It’s that positive spirit the Bearcats need to get back to winning like they were in early March when they won six of eight games.
The thing is Creger has been pitching hurt and the pain became so bad that she has been unable to play. She has an excuse that she refuses to use.
“She started out really strong,” Northwest softball coach Ryan Anderson said. “The first two or three weekends she threw really well and looked sharp.
“About three weeks ago, she started having some pain and she has been battling that for three weeks and it really has affected her. Making it through the duration of the game has been difficult and the injury has not allowed her to throw the pitches she wants to throw. It has been a tough adjustment.
“We were expecting a lot from her and she was producing. We hope to get her back soon and get back to where she was.”
When healthy, Creger is one of the best pitchers in the MIAA. Even though she has 75 strikeouts in 74 innings, it is her brain which makes her such a strong pitcher, Anderson said.
“She thinks about the situation,” Anderson said. “She has some good pitches she can go to. She is not a pitcher that worries about strikeouts. She likes strikeouts, but she wants outs. I think that is the biggest thing she brings. She pitches to outs.”
It is not surprising Creger uses her intelligence on the mound. She definitely uses her brain in the classroom. Last year Creger, who is majoring in biology, made the all-district academic team.
Creger’s goal after graduating Northwest next year is to get accepted into Medical School. One day she wants to be a pediatrician.
“To me academics are really important because I am not going to be a softball player my whole life,” Creger said. “My grades and my brain will get me a lot further.”
However, the weather is so nice these days that Creger wants to get on the mound and help the Bearcats win.
“It is so nice to play in warmer weather than colder weather,” she said. “We don’t have to have space heaters in our dugout. It is so much more enjoyable.”
Anderson is hoping the Bearcats are about to embark on a nice stretch, and Creger is contributing.
“We really have to bounce back. We have to bounce back from the injuries, but we also have to bounce back as a team and the off the field issues that derailed us a little bit. We have to move on.”
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