The Gustavus Adolphus College softball team will play Saint Mary’s on Friday in the first round of the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Tournament. The second-seeded Gusties and third-seeded Cardinals are set to begin play at 3 p.m. at Carleton. Both Carleton and St. Olaf are hosting the tournament.
The Gusties enter the league playoffs with a 29-7 overall record and a 19-3 mark in the MIAC. During the conference regular season, Gustavus losses came at Augsburg, at Saint Mary’s and versus St. Thomas. After starting the season 6-5, Gustavus won 23 of the next 25 games, and they’ve been especially hot as of late, winning seven of their last eight contests.
In his initial season at the head of the program, coach Jeff Annis’ squad broke or threatened many single-season team records. Gustavus’ 255 runs scored this season is the second-highest of all time, four short of the all-time record (259) set in 1991. Additionally, the Gusties tallied 26 triples in 2006, a new school record and shattered the previous team record for RBI in a single season, recording 206 in 2006. The previous record was 185 (1991). Annis’ squad was solid defensively as well, compiling a .969 fielding percent, which is an all-time school record.
The Gustie offense is lead by senior Audrey Lenoch, who is hitting at a .553 clip with 46 RBI and a .926 slugging percentage. She has also proven to be a clutch hitter with an astonishing .660 average with runners in scoring position. Leadoff batter Julie Mahre is first on the team in at bats (115), runs scored (46) and homeruns (6). She is also hitting .391 and boasts a .427 on base average. Four other Gusties with more than 50 at bats are hitting above .300 — they are Rachael Click (.378), Abby Bernstein (.357), Mary Furlong (.342) and Allison Haase (.320). As a team, the Gusties are hitting .326, with a .458 slugging percentage and a .390 on base average.
Joyce DeWitz leads the Gusties on the mound with a 19-4 overall record and an impressive 1.45 earned run average. In 29 appearances, DeWitz has 12 complete games and just six no decisions. She has also thrown 140.1 innings, with 154 strikeouts and 80 walks.
Saint Mary’s enters the MIAC Tournament with a 24-13-1 mark overall and a 19-3 record in league play. The Cardinals are also surging, having won 13 of their last 15 conference games. Jenni Gutterman leads the Cardinals offensively with a .423 batting average. Three other players (Jenny Schipp, Nikki Jung and Tara Close) with more than 100 at bats are also hitting north of .300 and have accounted for five of the team’s ten homeruns.
Schipp has been the leader on the mound in 2006 for Saint Mary’s. She has an 11-6 record with 1.31 earned run average in 118 innings pitched. She has 15 complete games in 19 starts and has 146 strikeouts compared to just 29 walks.
The Gustie seniors, who are 3-7 in their career against Saint Mary’s, 0-2 in the MIAC playoffs, hope to reverse a losing trend versus the conference rivals in this year’s MIAC playoffs.
First-seeded St. Thomas will play fourth-seeded Saint Benedict at St. Olaf College. First pitch is slated for 3:00 p.m. The winners of the first two games will play one another at St. Olaf, while the losers of each game will play at Carleton. Both of those games will begin at 5:00 p.m.
On Saturday, play will resume at 11:00 a.m, with the championship game schedule to begin at 1:30 p.m, or 4:00 p.m. if necessary.
A few other notes heading into the MIAC Tournament:
St. Thomas, the MIAC regular season champion and first seed in this year’s tournament, has claimed the last three regular season titles and six of the last seven.
St. Thomas enters the 2006 MIAC tournament having won 64 of their last 66 regular season conference games.
The Gusties had five every-day-starters hitting above .300 for the third time in the last five years.