Parker Burman – Staff Writer
The Gustavus softball team wrapped up a busy week of conference play on Monday with a double header sweep of conference rival St. Scholastica. With the victories the Gusties improved to 15-21 on the season and 10-12 in conference play. After picking up the win in game two Gustavus punched their ticket to the MIAC playoffs securing the No. 6 seed, their first appearance since 2016.
“It’s a big deal for us to make it to the conference tournament for the first time since 2016 so we are riding this high as far as we can. We know our potential is there and we just want to keep fighting for our seniors and our team as a whole,” said First-year outfielder Greta Dahlen said.
In game one Gustavus received a strong performance on the mound from Sophomore pitcher Piper Otto who threw six scoreless innings. The offense led by Junior Kayla Rudd showed up too as they managed to put seven runs on the board in the 7-6 victory.
“We really love playing at our home field and didn’t get as many opportunities this season due to the weather. We just wanted to end on a win at home and that’s what we did. Seeing everyone in the stands and just being able to play on our home field is a very comforting feeling for us,” Otto said.
In game two Otto started again, this time going four and giving up three runs on four hits. On offense the Gusties kept humming along as they scored nine runs on nine hits and four walks. Senior third baseman Kaylyn Leonard went 3-4 with four RBI’s on the day while Dahlen went 2-3 with two runs knocked in, in the 9-4 win.
Gustavus started fast in the first game as Sophomore outfielder Madelyn Mueller led off the inning with a triple. She was quickly knocked in by Rudd on an RBI single for the 1-0 lead. Dahlen would further extend the lead with her RBI double to score Rudd and push the lead to 2-0.
Throughout the next two innings the Gusties kept the offensive pressure on while Otto continued to hold St. Scholastica scoreless. In the second Mueller registered her second extra base hit in as many innings to extend the lead by a run. Senior Kenzie Skuza singled in Rudd in the third for the 4-0 lead. Gustavus would add three more insurance runs in the fifth to further expand their lead to 7-0.
St. Scholastica would get to the Gustie bullpen in the seventh after Otto had been replaced. The bullpen surrendered six runs in the frame, on just five hits, before getting out of the inning to complete the win.
“I am a nervous person so I always have nerves going into a game but I just tell myself to do my best. All I want is to have fun and play with no pressure. I also remind myself that it is not just me out there I have the defense behind me to make the plays I know they can make. My team depends on me so I must depend on them,” Otto said.
Unlike in game one, in game two St. Scholastica gained the early 2-0 lead off of Otto in the first inning. However, this deficit would quickly disappear after Gustavus got back to the bat rack. Leonard singled home Mueller after she reached base on a walk, and moved into scoring position on a wild pitch. Three batters later Dahlen would notch another RBI as she drove in Leonard.
The lead returned to St. Scholastica in the third on a solo home run over the center field wall. Looking to tie the game and take a lead Gustavus did just that in the fourth as Leonard ripped a bases cleaning, three run double down the right field line to give Gustavus a 5-3 lead.
Gustavus would pick up four more insurance runs over the next two innings to expand the lead to 9-3. St. Scholastica attempted to make a comeback in the seventh, after managing to scrap a single run across, but were unable to tie the game.
Coming off a series sweep and going into the playoffs the Gusties are excited and hungry to show what they can do. “Going forward I think we are looking to make the most out of whatever games we have left. If we want to keep going this season we need to play as a team and play the way we know we can play,” Leonard said.
“Overall we are all really excited for the playoffs. This is the first time that anyone on the team will be playing in a playoff game, so we are all super excited for this opportunity and we are ready for the challenge. We want to give our seniors the best sendoff that we can since they won’t be with us for too much longer, so we are ready to compete and play our game,” Rudd said.