Gustie Softball Opens 2017 Season In Rochester

Posted on February 24th, 2017 by

ST. PETER, Minn. – The Gustavus softball team is set to open the 2017 campaign this Saturday in Rochester, Minn., faced with a non-conference doubleheader against Dominican University and Martin Luther College. Head Coach Britt Stewart in is her first season at the helm and is prepared to lead Gustavus in the program’s 49th season. The Gusties are scheduled to face Dominican at 7 p.m., followed by a 9 p.m. start versus Martin Luther at the Rochester Regional Bubble. 

Saturday’s doubleheader marks the first two games of a 40-game regular season. The Gusties have four games over the next two weekends in Rochester, Minn., and will then travel to Kissimmee, Fla. March 9-13 to participate in the Central Florida Rebel Spring Games. The MIAC season starts April 1 against Bethel University at the Gustie Softball Field. 

After spending three seasons as an assistant coach at Southwest Minnesota State University, Stewart comes to Gustavus to become the seventh head coach in the 48-year history of Gustavus softball. Stewart takes over for Jeff Annis, who retired last season after 11 seasons as head coach. The Gusties have won three conference titles, while compiling an all-time record of 812-504-4 overall and 504-211-3 in Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference play.

Last season, Gustavus finished in second place in the MIAC with a 17-5 conference record, while owning an overall record of 26-12. The Gusties lost to Hamline University in an elimination game as the No. 2 seed in the MIAC playoffs.

“We look good, I’m excited,” Stewart mentioned. “We’re ready to go. Preseason has been interesting because we have been able to go outside numerous times in the month of February, which helps delay that indoor process that gets long. It will be nice just to see girls play. We have prepared and did all we needed to do, now we just get to go out and play. We are also deep, having girls that play multiple positions and girls that are competing for positions. The girls are excited and we are ready to go and see the hard work pay off.”

Returners/losses

The Gusties return 12 players from the 2016 roster, welcome in seven newcomers while losing five seniors to graduation. Of the 12 returners, five are included in the senior class, as well as five sophomores and two juniors. They also return 2016 All-Conference honorees Hannah Heacox (Sr., Stillwater, Minn.) and Jena Willis (Sr., Kalispell, Mt.), Heacox being a three-time recipient of the award. Gustavus also returns MIAC All-Conference Honorable Mention nominee Emily Webb (So., Maple Lake, Minn.)

Heacox and Willis led the Gustie pitching in 2016, combing for 222 innings pitched and 18 complete games. Offensively among returners, Willis also led in runs scored and at bats last season. Webb returns as the leader in hits among returners.

“I inherited a very successful team,” Stewart said. “I am very confident in our pitching staff this year. We have two seniors in Heacox and Willis, in addition to two freshman, Aly Freeman (Fy., Omaha, Neb.) and Brianna Menssen (Fy., St. Paul, Minn.), who will be vital parts to our pitching staff. Anytime you put Hannah or Jena on the mound, they will help us succeed. Our defense is also strong, we have a lot of senior leadership. In addition, we are going to start some freshmen, which is exciting for the program to know that we have young talent.”

Rachel Malo (Sr., Owatonna, Minn.) and Heacox are slated to captain the Gustie squad, both returning as co-captains from last season.

“Hannah is a girl that comes to work every day and gives her all. She just competes, which is nice to see and I know the younger girls follow her lead. Rachel is our leader on the field. She leads by example and the way that she plays with confidence. She also has the vocal leadership that brings the team together,” Stewart said about co-captains Heacox and Malo’s leadership qualities.

Gusties picked to finish third in MIAC

Gustavus was voted to finish third in the 2017 MIAC standings, as voted on by MIAC coaches. Defending co-regular season and playoff champion University of St. Thomas is the preseason pick of conference coaches to finish atop the MIAC standings. St. Catherine University was picked to finish second with 109 points, with Gustavus not far behind with 103.

“I think it says a lot about the success the team had last year, but also how much room we have to grow,” Stewart spoke on the preseason poll. “I think the girls are ready to compete at the championship level, so that is what we have been preparing for in the preseason.”

MIAC Preseason Poll

2017 GUSTAVUS ROSTER | SCHEDULE | 2016 STATS

 

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