Emma Esteb – Staff Writer
The Gustavus softball team headed down to Claremont, Florida for a warm getaway full of softball and sun. The Gusties started out hot as they finished with two back-to-back wins on the first day of the trip. They faced St. Lawrence and started the day with a 4-0 victory. Later that afternoon, the Gusties posted a 6-3 win against Manchester University. “We have been performing well on both sides. Being on the dirt in the warm weather brings a special kind of energy we needed. Our lineup had a lot of opportunities to see live pitching, exposure to the dirt, and overall preparation for the conference season,” Senior Kate Murray said.
First-year Maizie Anderson led the Gusties on the mound where she struck out eight batters. Anderson only allowed two hits in the six innings she pitched. Sophomore Rachel Kawiecki got the ball rolling for the Gusties after getting walked and then advancing to second base off a single from First-year Carly Nelson. The Gusties needed something to happen and First-year Lauren Lambert delivered. Lambert hit a double, sending Kawiecki home. Nelson scored on a fielder’s choice to end the second and secure the Gustie 2-0 lead.
The Gusties scored two more times with one in the third and another in the fifth. Kawiecki and First-year Caitlin Olafsson tallied those points and earned the 4-0 score for the Gusties. Lambert went 2-for-3 at the plate with two RBIs and Kawiecki accounted for half of the team’s runs.
Continuing that momentum, the Gusties held their own against Manchester University. Junior Piper Otto pitched five innings where she only allowed four hits in 17 at-bats. The team scored three of their six runs in the first inning. Two walks and a grounder to third attributed to the Gustie 3-0 lead at the end of the first.
Senior Kayla Ruud got an RBI double, increasing the Gustie lead 4-0. First-year Grace Gardner contributed to the score as she got Ruud home on a single to third.
“It was great to finally play outside and get a feel for the dirt again. I think we adjusted to the heat pretty well and it was super fun,” Ruud said. Ending out the game strong, Murray stole home and secured the Gustie victory, 6-3. “Adding another run gave us the extra assurance we needed. It’s always liberating when you score and know that you’re helping your team to a win,” Murray said.
The Gusties were tested on day two as they faced Luther College and Millikin. The Gusties started off the day against Luther where they played nearly six innings without a run from either team. Otto was on the mound again where she allowed only four hits in six innings pitched.
The Gusties fell short to Luther with a score of 0-3. Gustavus then faced Millikin where both teams scored early in the game. Kawiecki hit a solid double where she got Junior Madi Mueller home. Kawiecki also made it to home plate where she helped the Gusties take the lead 2-1. The Gusties unfortunately could not hold on to their lead and ended the game 6-2.
The next day, Gustavus faced Hope and Washington & Jefferson. The Gusties scored two runs, Olafsson scored her first career home run which brought her and Mueller home against Hope. Unfortunately, those two runs were not enough to keep the Gusties in the game where they fell short of Hope with a score of 3-2.
With a fire lit under them, the Gusties were determined to get another win before the end of the trip. They faced Washington & Jefferson where Anderson struck out seven in six innings and only allowed one run on four hits. The Gusties delivered as they finished out 8-1. Olafsson led the team going 3-for-4 with a run and three RBIs, these stats earned her MIAC athlete of the week.
The Gusties had another day of competition where they faced Colby. “Our fight makes this team different from other teams. In the field and at the plate there isn’t one of us that gave up before the last out. This proved to be true when we scored three runs in the seventh inning against Colby. This team has a special bond that is indescribable,” Murray said.
The team is off to a promising start as they hope to play outside soon. “Once we get back to Minnesota and can start playing outside, I am excited to make the most of my last season. Playing softball with my best friends is the only thing I could ask for,” Murray said. This team is looking for a very successful season and is already off to a good start. “This team came together really well and really quickly it feels like there’s a lot of trust and strong bond already, I was originally curious how it was going to go because of the large number of freshmen we have but the upperclassman did a great job working with everything and creating a family right away,” Olafsson said.