Autumn Zierman – Staff Writer
While the majority of Gusties spent the weekend on break enjoying the warming weather the Gustavus Softball team spent Saturday sweeping their first conference game of the season. The Gustie Softball team faced off against Augsburg University on home turf, ultimately claiming victory. Having started their season about three weeks ago at St Ben’s after a year without play, the team was excited to come out this weekend with such a landslide success.
The Gusties took game one by a score of 4-2 and held off a late Auggie rally in game two to win 4-3, improving to 7-3 on the season and 2-0 in the MIAC.
“It was nice to start off MIAC play with a couple wins. We made some mistakes and were able to battle out of them. Offensively, we were able to string some hits together when we needed them,” Head Coach Coley Ries said.
This season also marks the start of Head Coach Ries’ first year coaching the Gustavus Softball team. Following the conclusion of an eight-game season last year, Coach Ries was selected and now serves as the eight head coach in the team’s history.
This season is also unique for its fresh talent, the team comprising six first-years and four sophomores accompanied by five juniors and Senior Ashley Neunfeldt to lead the charge into the new season. Neunfeldt certainly took up that mantle this last Saturday as she went all seven innings in game one to earn the 4-2 win. She struck out three batters while giving up nine hits and zero earned runs.
Despite facing the challenges of a depleted senior class for leadership, Head Coach Ries views the opportunities the season presents positively.
“A lot of our sophomores are on the radar with their prior season cut short. Between them and our first years I think they’ll make an immediate impact and I believe that there’s some girls who could have incredible careers here. To be able to start off with them would be really exciting,” Ries said.
Though the game ended with landslide victory numbers, it stayed tense enough for the audience that has only recently been allowed back into the stands. The Gusties jumped out to an early 1-0 lead in the first inning when Neuenfeldt drove in First-year Madelyn Mueller. Augsburg answered back in the top of the third with two unearned runs to cut the Gustie lead to 3-2. Ultimately the game finished its scoring after Mueller drove in Junior Kaylyn Leonard, scoring another and finishing the first game 4-2 in Gustavus’ favor.
The second game of the double-header saw less offensive action with both teams entering the fifth inning scoreless. Then in the bottom half of the fifth, Junior Mackenzie Skuza launched her first home run of the season to put Gustavus up 1-0. With the energy revitalized, the Gustavus softball team scored another three runs in the bottom of the sixth inning putting the game 4-0 in Gustavus’ favor. Towards the end, Augsburg loaded the bases and scored two runs off a Gustavus error to cut the Gustie lead in half at 4-2.
“I think this team has a lot of skill and potential; we have a quality pitching staff backed with a solid defense and good hitters. After winning the first game, I felt a lot of excitement carry over into the second game. Although we may have had some errors and sloppy plays, we were still able to clean things up to string together a couple wins. There are some things we can continue to work on at practice, but I think this team is only going to get better from here,” First-year Madelyn Mueller said.
After facing off with Bethel, the calendar for Softball is slammed, having more games in the month of April (11 games) than were afforded the entirety of the season that was cut short last year. Most of these upcoming games will also be doubleheaders and a mix of home and away.
If you are planning to get out and cheer on the Gustavus Softball team this season, new campus regulations have been instituted that will allow you to do so. There will be a limited number of tickets available for current Gustavus students and employees that will be distributed at the Lund Center Information Desk the day of each contest. Tickets will be distributed starting at 10 a.m. weekdays and noon Saturday and Sunday. All attendees must follow the COVID guidelines in place for which the Sports Information Center has published more detailed guidelines.
With the opportunity in place, and the weather getting warmer, Gustavus Softball will hopefully have more fans to cheer them on to victory.