BY BREANN LENZMEIER
With the snow finally gone, the MSUM women’s softball team took to their home field to finish out their season this past weekend. The team hosted Southwest Minnesota State and University of Sioux Falls (S.D.), in two Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference games.
On Friday the Dragons lost 5-4 in 14 innings in the first game and 7-0 in the second. Sophomore pitcher Morgan Nybo pitched all 14 innings, giving up three earned runs in the game. Junior catcher Brittany York went 3-7 in the opening game and collected two RBIs. In the second game the Mustangs controlled from the start, leading by two early on, and then adding five more to make the final 7-0. With the two losses the Dragons fell to 15-22 overall.
Coming back the next day, the team faced another tough opponent, Sioux Falls. The Cougars brought a 28-15 record into the games and controlled the first game winning 4-0. Amanda Walters kept the Dragons’ bats quiet as she allowed only four hits in the game and struck out 10 in the game. For the Dragons, Nybo returned to the mound and allowed three runs in seven innings.
Looking to finish the season with a win, the team started the second game off on the right foot when freshman second baseman Jill Fox hit an RBI double to put the Dragons up 1-0 after two innings. The Dragons added another run when York hit a double, and Kristen Nordby crossed the plate to make it 2-0 MSUM. In the third, sophomore outfielder Kristy Bruni hit a leadoff home run to put the Dragons up by three through three innings.
“It was really exciting hitting the home run. It gave us hope that we could beat them,” Bruni said.
Nordby had a dynamic pitching performance early on but ran into trouble in the fifth inning. The Dragons saw their lead erased and were down by two runs by the end of the inning.
“I think we played really well overall today. The second game, it was hard to stay out of that inning. They scored five runs that inning, and we just couldn’t answer back,” head coach Kelsey Fehl said.
Fehl pointed to the pitching keeping the team in the game, and after the fifth inning Nordby put up zeros in the sixth and seventh innings.
“Our pitchers did well … We just weren’t able to string some hits together,” Fehl said.
With the Dragons dropping both games to Sioux Falls, they fell to 15-24 overall on the season and 9-19 in NSIC play.
Fehl said that this season was an improvement over last year. “It was a lot of fun to come and play better this year. We came every single day to work hard, and get better,” Fehl said.
The Dragons only had one senior this season, Alexa D’Onofrio. She has missed the last two seasons due to injury but did pitch three years for the team.
A number of players will be back next year. Fehl commented that having a number of returners coming back next year is a strong point for the team.
“(The players) grew up a lot as the games went on. They learned what was expected of them and what the conference is like and games are like,” Fehl said. “Getting all that experience is going to be big for us going forward in the next few years.”
The team did go on a six-game winning streak toward the end of the season. During that stretch they picked up conference wins against Bemidji State and Minnesota, Crookston. With 15 wins, the team more than doubled its win total from the 2013 season.
Bruni said that it was a year full of excitement for the team and everyone was pushing each other to get better. She added that the Dragons wouldn’t take no for an answer and if they knew they had a big game, that made us come out stronger and beat the opponent even more.
Looking forward to next season, Bruni said that it was important the team come out stronger and put in work in the offseason.
“Everyone has the drive to come back better next year; we want it so bad,” Bruni said.
With the Dragons making improvements each year, Fehl said the team needs to continue to improve to continue to have success.
“We will see what we were successful with and build on that and continue to get better in those areas. We’ve also seen what we need to improve at going forward, so that is going to be big,” Fehl said.