By Patrick Murphy
Although the Macalester softball team is struggling this year with a 4-18 record, the team is taking the season one game at a time, always looking for ways to build and improve upon past performances. The team is led by a group of seniors who have played together since they arrived at Macalester freshman year. Among the senior starters are Crystal Barriga ’10, Alison Phillips ’10, Olivia Abbott ’10, Amanda Cagan ’10, Ali Nystrom ’10, and Carly Klingensmith ’10. On a team with one of the smallest rosters in the MIAC, every player on the team has gotten plenty of playing time this year. The current seniors were almost all starters as freshmen and with three full seasons as starters already under their belts, they have settled into their respective positions and become specialists at their craft.Nystrom, the spark plug outfielder at the top of the lineup, has developed into the team’s biggest speed threat over her career. In her first two years she only stole a combined four bases, but she became more aggressive on the base paths last year, swiping eight bags. This year she picked up right where she left off. She currently has five steals with 18 games left to play in the year.Olivia Abbott is the veteran pitcher of the team in addition to playing middle infield and batting second for the team. She currently is hitting .305 with a home run and seven RBI’s. As a starting pitcher, Abbott has started in all four of the team’s victories this season. She has a 4.18 ERA with 33 strikeouts to this season.Cagan has been a defensive anchor in the infield throughout her career, and she has developed into a consistent offensive threat the last two years. Cagan hit for the highest average of her career last season at .351. She is batting .274 so far this year, but her power numbers have been up. In addition to hitting the first home run of her career, Cagan has already matched her career high for RBI’s in a season with 11. Cagan has also been the top run-scorer for the team this year with an impressive 17 runs in 20 games.Barriga, the starting catcher, has been one of the top players on the team since her freshman year. She has been on a tear throughout the year, currently standing at .433 with three home runs and 17 RBI. Barriga has the second highest batting average in the MIAC and is tied for the league lead in home runs.”I’ve put in a lot of work and have had great support from my family, teammates and coaches,” Barriga said. “I’ve been lucky enough to have plenty of positive support during my time at Mac.”After struggling offensively her first three years, Phillips has had a huge breakout season for the Scots this season in the middle infield. Phillips joins Barriga among the most prolific offensive players in the MIAC this season, currently hitting .377 with a home run and 15 RBI’s.”I’m seeing the ball a lot better at the plate and I’m approaching each game with a lot more confidence,” Phillips said. “Each defensive play or successful at-bat gives me more confidence that I will be successful the next time around.”Phillips expressed the need for the team to collectively play up to their competition for the rest of the season.”Some games, we have been stronger than the other team, but we played down to our opponents,” Phillips said. “We need to go into every game expecting to win and stay motivated through all seven innings.”Looking forward, the team will be left with a very young lineup next year after the seniors graduate. However, Phillips expressed confidence in the future of the team: “Our current freshmen and sophomores – Amanda Knopf ’12, Chloe Souza ’12, and Courtney Nussbaumer ’13 will emerge as team leaders next year.