After five months of tiresome practices and monotonous workouts, the Augustana women’s softball team headed to Las Vegas to put their off-season training to the test in the Desert Stinger Tournament.

“Our kids came out fired up and excited to play,” assistant coach Theresa McMahon said.

The team set the tone right off the bat by defeating Central Oklahoma State, the defending national champions. According to senior Lindsay Spanton, this win was the highlight of the trip.

“We have been preparing for them for so long,” Spanton said. “For the past month we have been using our pitching machine to practice hitting pitches this team would potentially show us. To come out and beat them our first game was great.”

The team ended up going four and one. Junior Caitlin Nichol hit a walk-off home run in the bottom of the seventh to secure the team’s fourth win.

“I was in a battle with the pitcher the whole game,” Nichol said. “As soon as I stepped up to the plate for my final at-bat my head was in the zone. As the ball left my bat I knew it was a hard hit. I am very proud of my teammates for not giving up in a scoreless game like that.”

The team’s fifth game was a battle that resulted in a loss by one run. However, the team came home feeling good.

“It was a great showing for the first weekend of the season,” McMahon said. “We enjoyed seeing different kids step up in big situations and make plays that ended up being key for each game.”

According to McMahon, the team’s pitching staff complemented each other well and worked hard with a solid defense behind them. The team is also faster this year than in the past, which can help them win games.

“As we keep moving forward for our season, we will focus on one game at a time,” said McMahon. “We will work to solidify our strengths and strengthen our weaknesses as they appear.”

Spanton, the team’s only graduating senior, also felt good about the season opener and is excited to see what the season brings.

“I am super proud of how our team played,” Spanton said. “We made a name for ourselves and have come a long way since the fall. Our goal, as a team and for myself, is to try to make it back to the national tournament. I would love to go out with a bang.”