Brady Boie – Staff Writer
The Gustavus women’s softball team got back on track this week with wins against Saint Mary’s and Concordia College. These wins snapped a six-game losing streak and brought the Gusties closer to a .500 record. Their busy weekend consisted of four games (two double-headers) and began with a visit to Winona against Saint Mary’s.
Despite coming into the game on a six-game skid, the Gusties didn’t lack confidence and started the game off hot. Junior Mackenzie Skuza got on base from a fielding error, which allowed senior Ashley Neuenfeldt to score in the first inning. Skuza’s sister, Allie, also contributed in the first inning, scoring off Junior Kaylnn Leonard’s single. Sophomore Kate Murray emphasized the importance of the Gusties’ hot start.
“Scoring those first two runs right away felt great. It set the pace for the rest of the game and gave us the comfort on defense that we needed to make plays,” Murray said.
The Gusties carried this momentum throughout the rest of the game. They did not allow a single run and played some of the best defense of their season. This great team effort was led by some excellent pitching by First-year Payton Belt. In the seven innings that Belt pitched, Belt struck out three batters and only allowed three hits.
“[Belt] stepped up and filled her role very well. She threw a great game and put a lot of trust in the defense behind her. She worked her butt off for the team and we made the plays we needed to in order to take that game,” Murray said.
In the second game, the Gusties were unable to keep up the momentum that they had in game one. The Cardinals scored three runs in the second inning and never really looked back. The Gusties surrendered eight total runs and ultimately lost the game 8-2.
“We didn’t play to our fullest potential. We weren’t able to piece enough hits together and defensively we didn’t make the plays we needed to,” Murray said.
After the loss, the Gustie women packed up their bags, got some rest, and were back out on the diamond the very next day. They hosted a double-header against Concordia and were looking to build off of the previous day’s victory. But things didn’t go as planned. After a scoreless first inning, Concordia scored three runs in the top of the second. The Gusties responded in the third inning, as freshman Madelyn Miller scored off of a Neuenfeldt single up the middle.
Unfortunately, that would be the last time that the Gusties reached home plate. Concordia piled on three additional runs‒two in the fourth and one in the sixth‒to make the final score read 6-1 in favor of Concordia. However, this wasn’t the end of the weekend for the Gusties.
“Losing game one was hard but we came together as a team and turned the page right away. We found energy and carried it throughout game two,” Murray said.
The Gustie women came out swinging in game two. Murray had a crucial RBI double in the second inning that energized the Gusties and gave them an early lead. After a few scoreless innings, Concordia broke the scoring drought in the top of the fifth inning. Concordia scored two quick runs, and it began to feel as if another game was going to slip away from the Gustie women’s team. That feeling was quickly put to rest, as the Gusties responded in the bottom of the fifth, as sophomore Kayla Ruud scored off of a ground-ball RBI.
The Gustie defense held strong for one last half-inning and gave themselves a chance to win the game in the bottom of the sixth. After having a teammate reach second base with a single and a steal, Ruud stepped up to the plate once again. And once again, she delivered. Ruud socked a double that scored the runner on second base, and the Gusties walked off victorious.
“[Ruud]’s always great. She is always here to play the game. It was time for her to crank one for us in the final inning, and she certainly delivered,” Belt said.
The walk-off win puts the Gusties’ record at 9-11 and 4-8 in the MIAC. There is optimism that this record will improve, as the team gets closer each and every day.
“We have been building team chemistry and that special bond we strive for. We have some big personalities on the team and we have so much fun together. Every game the environment on and off the field keeps getting better and better,” Murray said.
This optimism and connectedness better prepare the Gustie women for what should be a daunting week ahead. The Gusties are set to face St. Thomas and St. Olaf this coming week, both of which are ranked top three in the conference.