The Gustavus softball team will open its 2010 season with four games at the Finlandia Dome Tournament in Marquette, Michigan this Saturday and Sunday. The Gusties will play UW-Stevens Point (noon), UW-Oshkosh (2 pm), and Simpson (6 pm) on Saturday and then wrap up the tournament against Concordia University of Mequon, Wisconsin on Sunday at 8 am.
The Gusties enter the 2010 season with high expectations as Head Coach Jeff Annis returns six starters in the field and all three starting pitchers from a squad that won the MIAC Championship with a 21-1 record and then went on to finish third at the NCAA Championship. The team compiled an all-time program best record of 42-9.
Annis has two big holes two fill with the graduation of All-America shortstop Rachael Click and All-Region centerfielder Emily Klein, however he fills confident that the experience gained by the 16 returning letterwinners last season will allow the team to compete at the top of the MIAC again this season. The Gusties are ranked #6 in the National Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA) Division III Pre-season Poll that was released in mid-February.
Gustavus will build around a talented pitching staff that includes seniors Betsie Collins and Callie Nelsen and junior Erin Truebenbach. All three posted double digit wins last season and give the Gusties one of the deepest and strongest pitching rotations in Division III. Truebenbach, an All-Conference honoree, led the way with a 16-4 record and a 1.34 earned run average in 135.1 innings of work, while Collins, an honorable mention All-Conference honoree, was right behind Truebenbach with a 14-4 mark and a 1.80 earned run average in 108.2 innings on the mound. Nelsen, who registered a 12-1 record with a 2.15 earned run average in 75.0 innings, rounds out the talented pitching trio.
Behind the plate, the team returns two quality catchers who split the duties last season and they are juniors Dani Cattrysse and Kelly Myers. Cattrysse started 30 games and hit .295 with six doubles and 16 RBI, while Myers started 22 games and hit .320. The solid depth behind the plate allows Annis to keep his catchers fresh and healthy during a long and grueling season.
In the infield, the Gusties return three starters including senior third baseman Andrea Brown (an All-Tournament selection at the NCAA Championship), junior first baseman Emily Wendorff (also an All-Tournament selection at the NCAA Championship), and sophomore second baseman Lisa Klass (an All-Tournament selection at the NCAA Midwest Regional). This talented trio is as strong in the field as they are at the plate. Wendorff caught fire at the NCAA Championship as she hit .533 (8-for-15) with four RBI and two runs scored. An honorable mention All-Conference pick, Wendorff hit .353 overall and posted a .996 fielding percentage. Brown was spectacular in the field at the NCAA Championship with four putouts and 18 assists and no errors in 22 chances. She finished the season with a .326 batting average and a .930 fielding percentage. Klass made her first season at Gustavus one to remember as she was the only first year player on the All-Conference Team and was named the MIAC Rookie of the Year. She hit .417 in league play and .392 overall and registered a fielding percentage of .948. The big question in the infield will be who will play shortstop with the graduation of Rachael Click. Annis will look to junior Jesse Pelzel, who backed up Click last season and junior Kirsten Prunty who started in left field last season. Pelzel played in 21 games and compiled a .192 batting average and .778 fielding percentage, while Prunty started 49 games in left field and posted a .291 batting average and a .962 fielding percentage. Prunty hit two clutch home runs at the NCAA Championship and was named to the All-Tournament Team. Senior Jenna Johnson will also add depth to the infield backing up Wendorff at first base. She will also contribute as the designated player. Johnson started 43 games last season hitting .279 with 10 doubles and four home runs.
In the outfield, Annis returns starting rightfielder Jenny Ewert. Ewert will likely move to centerfield to fill the opening created by the graduation of Emily Klein. Ewert started 47 games in the outfield last season, hitting .305 and posting an .846 fielding percentage. Others who expect to compete for playing time in the outfield include senior Sheila Arnold, junior Amy Lynch, and sophomores Dee Dee Arnold and Carrie Johnson. Sheila Arnold played in 22 games in left and right field last season. She hit .160 and compiled seven putouts and one assist without committing an error. Lynch played in 35 games primarily as a designated player and pinch runner. The speedy Lynch hit .429 and stole four bases in six attempts.
Coach Jeff Annis has put together a demanding schedule to challenge his veteran squad starting with games against traditionally strong programs from UW-Stevens Point and Simpson at the Finlandia Dome Tournament. Then in the middle of March the team will head to Florida to take part in the NFCA’s Leadoff Classic, which is an invitation only tournament featuring the top programs in Division III. Gustavus will Ithaca College, Mount Union and Methodist in pool play on the first day and then advance to championship or consolation bracket play on the second day of the tournament. In addition, Annis has non-conference games scheduled against UW-La Crosse, Central, and St. Scholastica. All that in addition to the rigorous MIAC schedule. Annis is confident that strong pitching and a veteran presence in both the infield and outfield the Gusties can once again challenge for the MIAC Title and contend for a berth in the NCAA Tournament.