Softball toughing it out in a formidable conference

By Peter Steele

Under newly sunny skies and refreshingly warm temperatures, the Scots’ 2009 softball campaign is heating up. In the midst of an early hectic schedule against MIAC rivals, the Scots picked up their first conference wins when they split a series with Carleton on Monday and ousted a hot St. Benedict team Tuesday, 6-4, who last week beat #4 St Thomas.Outfielder Ali Nystrom ’10 has led the offense with a .366 batting average and 19 runs, while catcher Crystal Barriga ’10 ranks 8th in the MIAC with 18 RBI’s. Three of Barriga’s RBI’s came with a homerun in the win over St. Benedict on Tuesday.

Chloe Souza ’12 is also having an immediate impact at the plate during her first year on the team, hitting at a .324 clip. Amanda Cagan ’10 has added depth to the Scots’ defense at catcher, as well as batting above .300 with over a .400 slugging percentage.

On the mound, Olivia Abbott ’10 and Amanda Knopf ’12 have picked up all 6 Scot wins between themselves, with impressive respective of ERAs of 4.31 and 3.45.

Abbott added distinction by hurling a 4-hit shutout in the win over Carleton and is confident in her teammates.

“It’s just going to take all of us working together and stepping up to play the game we are capable of playing,” Abbot said. “We have a small team, but we have a lot of talent.”

So far, “stepping up” has meant a combination of timely hitting to put the Scots ahead in games and strong pitching and defense to close those games out. The hitting, for the most part, has been there, keeping the team close even in losses to St. Olaf and Carleton, and coming through in subsequent wins over Carleton and St. Benedict. However, it has been a struggle to put teams away. In the losses, The Oles and Knights were both able to score in either the sixth or the seventh inning to pull out the victory.

The players have also needed to adjust to the newly opened field. The Scots have broken it in by playing six games on it over the past week, and have now consecrated it with their first home victory. Abbott says the field will likely be a huge help this season.

“This is the first time for most of the players that we actually get to be on campus,” Abbot said. “We spent the last two years commuting to different fields because of construction. It’s going to be very beneficial to have a field we can call our home.”

The schedule shows no signs of letting up for the Scots in the near future, with doubleheaders against and Concordia, St. Mary’s and Hamline coming up this week. The Scots are entering the homestretch, with only four opponents left on the season. In these games, they will look to build on the momentum of their recent victories. In particular, the matchup against Hamline, who currently trails only Gustavus and St. Thomas for third in the MIAC, will be a challenge.