Catching Sunrays: Dragons softball looks to use spring break success as season catalyst

Dragons softball looks to use spring break success as season catalyst

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BY: GRIFFIN NELSON, nelsongr@mnstate.edu

Sometimes, you just need a vacation.

Maybe someplace tropical.

Gently swaying palm trees. Sandy beaches. Open skies.

A spring break trip to Orlando, Florida, is sure to provide plenty of pleasure. But MSUM softball made sure to take care of business in paradise and hopefully rejuvenate what was turning into a bleak first campaign under head coach Amanda Reckamp.

“The trip was a gut check,” Reckamp said. “We wanted to go out and implement the training we’ve done all offseason. We had some fun with it down there.”

Heading into March, the Dragons were a paltry 0-8 with a -35 run differential. They were hitting at a clip under .230 and giving up 7.75 runs per game.

“We have a lot of young players,” Reckamp said. “Our pitching staff is young and a bit inexperienced. I think we struggled to string hits together offensively.”

With the harsh Minnesota winter bearing down through February, it’s been difficult for the Dragons to find their way outside and receive the proper hitting and fielding training needed in-season.

A weeklong trip down south to the temperate conditions of spring made for the perfect escape.

“It was great to play outside in the warm weather and play on the dirt, see those types of real bounces,” MSUM senior Lexie Kennedy said.

The weather warmed up the bats, as well.

The Dragons went 6-3 and hit .288 during the trip as players like junior Emma Dummer and freshman Samantha Gjerde caught fire at the plate, pushing their batting averages above .300.

“I think everyone’s drive to win really kicked into gear.” Dummer said. “We have finally realized that we are a competitive team.”

Sophomore pitcher Becky Berth, who emerged as the team’s top starter a year ago, flashed dominance in a one-hit complete game shutout victory against Franklin Pierce. After starting the year 1-5, Berth has gone 5-2 with a 1.78 ERA.

“Being able to complete three days worth of sweeps was big for us,” Reckamp said.

Florida was a much-needed lift after a disappointing start to the season.

“We got to see some great opponents and grow together,” Kennedy said. “We grew as a team both on a skill and mental level.”

There’s a lack of tradition when it comes to MSUM softball. The Dragons haven’t experienced a winning season in twelve years. Reckamp, the fourth head coach since 2007, is no stranger to the art of building a program from the ground up.

She spent the past eight years doing so at Grinnell College in Iowa, taking over a struggling team and meticulously building a winning tradition and conference contender. In her final year at Grinnell, the Pioneers set a remarkable 41 school records including wins and conference wins, and even produced the school’s first-ever All-American in Darice Wheeler.

“When I interviewed (at MSUM),” Reckamp said, “I felt like I had a toolset that I thought could help turn the program in a different direction.”

Since returning from Florida, the Dragons have split their conference matchups 2-2. The two wins have come in extra innings, their two losses by just one run.

The improvements are evident, in approach and performance. The team just needed to get back to the basics, enjoy the game they love and soak up a little sun in the meantime.

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