The Gustavus Softball team is on a roll this week, notching two straight sweeps against MIAC opponents. The Gusties allowed just one run across four games, and improved their record to 19-11 (6-6 MIAC). The Gusties are in the heart of conference play and last Thursday marked their first sweep, as they won two straight games against St. Mary’s University in Winona, MN.
In the first game against the Cardinals, the Gusties relied on a strong pitching performance from senior Hannah Heacox, and a few productive innings offensively to win by a score of 4-1. Heacox gave up just one run in a complete game, and recorded 11 strikeouts, moving her record to 9-7 on the mound. After failing to score in the first four innings, the Gusties put together three runs in the fifth inning. First year Aly Freeman added a solo homerun in the sixth inning to extend the lead to 4-0. The Cardinals managed to score one run in the bottom of the sixth, but Heacox and the Gustie defense secured the 4-1 victory.
Senior Jena Willis took over at the mound for game two of the doubleheader, and continued the stellar pitching. Willis recorded a complete game shutout, allowing just four hits and recording 3 strikeouts. The Gusties scored one run in the first inning, and then two runs in both the second and third innings, extending their early lead to 5-0. The defense carried the load the rest of the way as the Gusties held on to win with by the same score. “I am proud of the way that Jena pitched today,” Head Coach Britt Stewart said. “She maintained great composure and stayed ahead all day. We were able to come back in the second game and get ahead early which helped to maintain control and gave us some confidence. We are excited to continue to build on this success.”
They did exactly that four days later against Concordia at home, recording their second straight sweep with two straight shutout wins. Heacox returned to the mound for the Gusties and put on a clinic, allowing only one hit in a complete game shutout. This stellar performance improved Heacox’s record to 10-7, and marked her fifth complete game shutout of the year. Gustavus was able to put two runs on the board in the second inning and two more in the third before breaking open their lead with a huge fourth inning. After the first two batters got on base with singles, Junior Jessica Neuman cleared the bases with her first career triple. They kept the bats going, and recorded eight runs in the fourth inning to seal the deal on a 12-0 win. Heacox was 2-3 with 2 RBI, Neuman was 2-4 with 2 RBI, and Hoffman was 1-3 with 4 RBI to lead the Gustie offense.
In the second game, the Gustie pitchers continued their dominance as Willis and Freeman combined for a shutout. Willis recorded the win, improving her record to 9-4 on the year. On the offensive side, the Gusties used their momentum from game one to take an early lead. In the first inning, Heacox and Neuman reached base and took advantage of some errors by the Cobbers to score and secure an early 2-0 lead for the Gusties. Then, in the second inning, the Gusties rattled off three hits, highlighted by a 2-RBI single from Neuman to extend their lead to 4-0. They added another insurance run in the fifth inning, after freshman Sidney Welp recorded an RBI single. Ali Hoffman led the Gusties offense with a career-high three hits. “I am most proud of Ali Hoffman for stepping up today at the plate,” Stewart said. “We also had a great performance from Aly Freeman on the mound. I know she is seeing how much her hard work has paid off. I can’t wait to see what else this team can accomplish this week.”
The Gusties seem to be hitting their midseason stride now after winning their last four games.
“I couldn’t be prouder of our athletes for coming out and competing. We took care of business today and played softball like we know how. Our pitching was lights out, we made all of the plays behind them and hit the ball extremely well. I liked the fact that we came out with confidence and intensity to win both games. It was a great start to the week,” Stewart said.
They will look to continue their strong play against St. Catherine University on Wednesday, Macalester College on Thursday, and St. Thomas on Saturday, April 22nd. Saturday’s game against St. Thomas begins at 1 pm and is a special event for “Strike Out Cancer”. The Hill Crew will be accepting donations for cancer research and handing out prizes for the first 50 fans, so make sure to show up in pink!