Success is nothing new for Good Thunder, Minn. native Joyce DeWitz. As part of the Maple River High School softball team, she contributed to winning a state title during her sophomore season, a fifth-place state tournament finish during her junior season, and a 25-5 pitching record during her senior season. Now, DeWitz is making a name for herself in her sophomore season at the collegiate level as a member of the Gustavus Adolphus College softball team.
DeWitz has helped Gustavus Adolphus College to a 16-12 overall record and a 10-2 mark in MIAC play. The Gusties are currently tied with Saint Mary’s for second place in league play behind undefeated Saint Thomas. DeWitz has helped the Gusties win 12 of their last 14 games with a record of 11-2 during that stretch.
DeWitz has pitched three signature games in the last four Gustavus doubleheaders, including a game against Concordia with 20 strikeouts, a perfect game against Macalester, and a two-hit shutout against Bethel. DeWitz threw a complete game against Concordia on April 9 to win 6-1 in Moorhead. She tied the Division III record for strikeouts with 20, which is held by four other players. Throwing 20 K’s had never been accomplished in an MIAC game or by a Gustavus pitcher until this season, and the previous high for strikeouts in a game at Gustavus had been 13 by Molly Biehn in 2004. DeWitz threw 11 innings, allowing two hits, one run, and two walks. Just five days later, DeWitz accomplished another milestone throwing the first perfect game in Gustavus’ 36-year history, winning 7-0 against Macalester. She tossed seven innings and struck out eight Scot batters. Then, just four days later, DeWitz threw a two-hit, complete game shutout in St. Peter against Bethel, allowing two hits and striking out 13.
In 19 appearances this season, DeWitz has compiled an earned run average of 1.79 while maintaining a 12-8 overall record. She has tossed 13 complete games, averaged nearly 6 innings per appearance, and thrown nearly 8 strikeouts per game. DeWitz has also thrown seven shutouts, including six in the last 11 games.
Although DeWitz has been hot on the mound as of late, health problems hindered her from gaining more experience in her freshman season. “I had a blood disease that didn’t allow me to pitch regularly. I wouldn’t have started, but I would have been able to see some quality innings closing out games behind Molly Biehn, Sara Medved, and Katy Berquam who were all seniors last season. Not being able to play was somewhat of a blessing in disguise as I was able to learn from three quality senior pitchers.”
After a 1-6 start to this season, DeWitz said it wasn’t nerves that contributed to her inability to earn wins. “I think it was more the newness of starting at the collegiate level that got to me. I wasn’t nervous as much as I was not used to college ball, and we played some tough teams in the beginning of the season on our trip to California.”
Coach Shanda Ness said DeWitz has improved tremendously from the earlier stages of the season. “At the beginning of the season, Joyce felt some added pressure being new to the college game and also being thrown into the starting role due to an injury to Janie Hanson. She has since found the strike zone regularly and fixed her problems with walking too many batters. Joyce has definitely figured out that she has a great team of defenders and batters surrounding her and all she needs to do is pitch well.”
Senior pitcher Janie Hanson has recovered from her elbow injury and DeWitz is happy to have her back in the line-up. While Hanson was out, DeWitz had to carry a majority of the pitching load and it took its toll on her both mentally and physically. “It has been really hard throwing two games for most of the season. Against some of the teams in the MIAC, it has been okay, but against teams like Saint Mary’s and Saint Thomas, starting both games has been hard on my arm. I have been taking full body ice baths to try and keep my arm and body loose. Every pitch at the college level is so much more intense than it was in high school. With Janie coming back and Jenna Ruhl contributing as a reliever, we will be in much better shape down the stretch.”