Before each game the softball team warms up with a round of hacky sack, and they can often be seen practicing around campus. This new tradition emerged from the team’s love of spending time together.
The Gusties have no intention of slacking on the field, however, after a 2012 season where the team was 30-9 overall and 20-2 in the conference. They just know it’s true that the team that plays together stays together. For the close-knit Gustavus squad, a tight team dynamic is the key to success.
“Our greatest strength of the team is the chemistry that we have both on and off the field,” Senior Pitcher Kate Rentschler said. “Everyone on the team loves the game and works hard to play their role.”
Gustavus will be returning to the field for the 2013 season with a strong set of veteran talent. Every member of the infield has at least one year of experience. The biggest adjustment the team will have to make is the absence of All-American Second Baseman Lisa Klass, who graduated last year. The Gusties are confident, however, that their depth of talent will help make up for the loss.
“Lisa is an amazing player, and she will be incredibly difficult to replace, but I believe our team has the talent and the depth to field nine strong individuals this season,” Junior Catcher Kat Dahl said.
The Gusties have been practicing hard in the off-season by weight training, hitting, and even running two-a-day practices in January.
In spite of the lingering winter, Gustavus kicked off their competitive season in Rosemount, Minnesota against Buena Vista University on March 3 at the Rosemount Bubble. The Beavers got the better of Gustavus in the double-header, winning the first game 6-1 and the second 6-5. Despite the shaky start, the Gusties used the series to learn and prepare for the rest of the season.
“After every game, no matter the outcome, our coach always tells us to make sure we learned something,” Dahl said. “Buena Vista was a rough series for us because dome ball is always different and we were trying to work out some first game jitters.”
The double-header against Buena Vista also served as a warm up for the Gusties’ trip to Georgia the following weekend for the Leadoff Classic tournament.
“Buena Vista was our first outing of the season, and it was a good opportunity to get back on the field in actual game mode. We were able to adjust to playing again and getting back into the groove in preparation for Georgia,” Rentschler said.
The Division III Leadoff Classic was held March 8-9 in Columbus, Georgia and hosted twenty-eight teams from around the nation. The tournament provided Gustavus with challenging competition and the opportunity to sharpen their skills outdoors early in the season.
“The best teams in all of DIII softball were in Georgia competing. It was great to play at a really high level of competition,” Dahl said.
Gustavus rose to the challenge early with a 2-1 win over Linfield College of Oregon on Friday, March 8. Later that evening Gustavus fell just short to Fontbonne University of Missouri in a close 5-4 loss.
The team bounced back quickly and came out full force against Ithaca College of New York the next morning. A seven-run first inning propelled the Gusties to a 9-4 victory.
“Georgia has been a great opportunity for us to realize the talent and potential we have as a team and get us excited for the rest of the season,” Rentschler said.
Returning to the snow covered fields of Minnesota isn’t easy for a softball team eager to get conference play underway, but the Gusties are using the momentum of the tournament to stay driven.
“Our goal is to bring the intensity and experience of Georgia back with us for a great two weeks of practice until we start playing conference games,” Dahl said. “We have been practicing really hard, but there is only so much we can do inside, so we can’t wait for the snow to melt to go outside and hit the dirt.”
Gustavus will kick off conference play at home on March 27 against Bethel University. As usual, the team cites St. Thomas as their biggest rival for a conference title.
“Our biggest rival always has been and continues to be St. Thomas, but every team in the MIAC has improved over the past few years. All conference games are important and we are looking forward to good competition with every MIAC team this year,” Rentschler said.
As the season begins, there is one conference title that Gustavus already has locked down.
“Our team has the most fun in the MIAC, without a doubt. We are super silly and goofy, but when the time comes we know how to work hard and play softball at a high level of intensity,” Dahl said.