The Scots of Macalester Softball can hit themselves out of any tough situation. Through 18 games the team holds an astounding .359 batting average, good enough for second best in the MIAC, with seven hitters currently clearing the .300 mark. After a 12-6 start, the Scots are a single win short of matching their 2013 total.
Coach Jody Gabriel explained that last year was particularly grueling because of the routinely inclement weather, which forced the team off of its practice field on all but a few days. “It’s challenging for student athletes when you plan on missing class Tuesday and then all of a sudden the game’s now on Wednesday,” Gabriel said of the struggles that plague a season of rain-outs. Despite keeping most games close, the team finished 13-27, which was “well below our team goal,” according to Gabriel.
“The team knows that they as individuals are talented enough to do better than that,” Gabriel said of last year’s squad. She entered 2014 with a focus on the big plays, specifically first and third situations and efficient base running, which the team has been executing more this season.
“If we want to play with the top teams in the conference we have to be prepared and we have to figure what our opponent isn’t expecting,” Gabriel added.
“We think the biggest difference between this year and last year is the shift from a team made up of mostly underclassmen to upperclassmen. Nine of our 14 girls are upperclassmen,” said Alisha Barritt ’14 and Cleo Nagy ’14, the team’s only seniors. Gabriel commends them both for being excellent communicators, noting that they are the only remaining players who started at Macalester before she did and exemplify the work ethic that is central to Gabriel’s team’s personality.
Barritt, who is currently hitting .343, and Nagy, .357, both entered the season with the personal goal of hitting .300, a mark half the team has surpassed easily. Having tossed 37 innings already, Barritt is the second most used of the team’s three pitchers and owns a 3-3 record.
Gabriel’s squad sets goals in increments, and initially strove to open the season 6-0. The Scots finished the stretch 5-1, but they achieved goals set forth in batting average, fielding percentage and earned run average. Leading this early season success is Saraswati Wilson ’15, who boasts the team’s best average at .547 with a home run and 5 RBI. The coaching staff and players agreed that the season’s ultimate goals are to finish with a winning a record and to finish among the top four teams in the MIAC in order to qualify for the conference tournament.
Thus far, Gabriel has been impressed with the team’s versatility. “We only have 14 players, which is a small roster for our conference, but we have 14 softball players capable of and willing to play multiple positions,” she said. Gabriel believes that this versatility coupled with the team’s consistent clutch hitting matches them up favorably against the conference’s finest competition.
The most dramatic changes to the team from a year ago are a reduction in “major” injuries and the influx of three first years, according to Nagy. On a team of only 14, the addition of three new players has the potential to shake up the team dynamic, but the first years have all improved the team’s energy, according to Gabriel. Nikki Caicedo ’17 has spent 17 of the team’s 18 games behind the plate and is hitting .415, third best on the team, with 9 RBI. Additionally, Barritt and Nagy predicted that left fielder Abby Cox ’16 will break out this year after hitting her first home run of the season last weekend against St. Ben’s.
Saturday’s double-header victory against St. Ben’s, which puts the Scots at 2-0 in conference play, was indicative of the team’s offensive prowess. In the second game, the Scots came back from an 11-7 deficit in the bottom of the 7th to walk-off with a win. “We just hit ourselves out of a hole that we got ourselves into defensively,” Gabriel said.
“We’ve seen fantastic defense, fantastic pitching and fantastic hitting. Our challenge is putting all three together every game,” Gabriel said of the season ahead. Barritt and Nagy noted that this synthesis will be important in the games against Carleton and St. Kate’s, which will be their final regular season games of their careers.
When asked how this team is different than one’s she has coached in the past, Gabriel responded, “Last year we had the best team chemistry I’ve ever coached, and that has carried on to this year.”
“Being around great people makes it easy to get along,” Gabriel added.