Macalester Softball plans to swing for the fences, playoffs

By Nate Wilson-Traisman

After a 2007 season that more than tripled their 2006 win total, the Scots have aspirations for the 2008 season that would have been unthinkable as recently as two years ago.”Our goal is to finish top four and make the playoffs,” Amanda Cagan ’10 said.

The Scots, who finished ninth (10-26 overall, 6-16 MIAC) in the MIAC last season, saw vast improvement from two years ago where they won only one conference game.

“We know exactly what we need to do [to make the playoffs], it’s just a matter of doing it,” Head Coach Tom Cross said.

Macalester’s success will be largely contingent on the performance of their veterans. Key returners include All-MIAC performers Katie Grudnowski ’08, Olivia Abbot ’10 and Crystal Barriga ’10.

Grudnowski will roam center field for Macalester, while Abbot and Barriga will serve as the primary pitcher-catcher battery.

“I feel like this is by far the best team I’ve coached here as far as ability,” Cross said.

Abbot, who will undoubtedly pitch the majority of Macalester’s games, may hold the key to a Macalester playoff appearence. Abbot pitched a whopping 90 innings in 2007, recording a 6-9 record while tallying 53 strikeouts. Offensively, the Scots will rely heavily on Grudnowski, Macalester’s lone senior and captain. Grudnowski hit a stellar .360 last season, while leading the team in hits (32) and stolen bases (8).

Barriga’s first season was also promising, as she showed that she can hit for both power and average. Barriga led the squad in homeruns (2), and RBI (16), while also batting a solid .345.

“This team potentially has some outstanding power, more than we’ve ever had here,” Cross said.

Additional returning veterans include outfielder Cagan, infielders Meredith Wisniewski ’09, Carly Klingensmith ’10 Alison Phillips ’10, and Monica Keaney ’10. Ali Nystrom ’10 will backup Abbot and see additional time in the field, while newcomer Hayley Reeves ’11 is expected to start at shortstop.

“We’re a building program,” Cross said. “Last year we showed great progress from the year previous. We’re hoping to make that next step.”

Although the program appears headed in the right direction, the Scots will be faced with the obstacle of an unusually small roster. The departures of four players due to personal reasons and study abroad have left Macalester with an 11-player squad, just two more than the bare minimum.

“If we get somebody hurt, it’s going to be a concern,” Cross said.

Still, players noted that there are advantages to having such a small group.

“Attitude-wise, we have a very cohesive team,” Cagan said. “Also, since we’re such a small team, everyone is going to get a lot of time and everyone is important.”

Macalester’s season gets underway Wednesday, when the team plays Bethany Lutheran in the Rosemount Dome. The game is scheduled to begin at 10:00 A.M.