Members of the Augustana softball team are having what coach Gretta Melsted calls “a very good season,”—their record is currently 27-6, and they are ranked 13th in the nation. According to Melsted, despite their successes, the team’s philosophy is still, “take it one day at a time.”
“We try not to get too far ahead of ourselves,” Melsted said. “[We] go to the next opponent and do our best that day. [We] just keep cruisin’.”
The women began their season with a triumph, defeating last year’s national champions, Central Oklahoma, in their first game.
“We started off our season really strong,” said senior Erin Kempf. “[Winning that game] helped a lot with confidence and self-esteem on the team.”
The team’s ultimate goal is to reach and win this year’s national championship, but Melsted says she’ll be proud of her “kids” if they can get through the preliminary regional tournaments.
“In order to even give yourself a chance to go to the national tournament and win the national championship, you have to put yourself in a position to make the regional tournaments,” she said. “To go to a national tournament, you have to have the talent. You have to have team chemistry. You have to have a little luck.”
While the luck may not be guaranteed, the team is definitely not lacking in talent, according to coaches and players.
“Our hitting right now is our team strength,” said Kempf. “Our bats have definitely exploded lately. Our defense is actually doing really well, also, and that helps take a lot of the pressure off our pitchers.”
Melsted agrees that the team’s hitting is “really coming along,” and she is proud of players’ individual abilities to score runs. One player, senior Lindsay Spanton, recently hit her first career grand slam.
“[Lindsay] is really doing a phenomenal job,” Melsted said. “She’s really doing well right now, and she deserves to have a great senior year.”
Melsted also says that the team is “probably one of the better defensive teams” she’s coached since coming to Augustana.
Moreover, she believes that the current pitching staff is “the best in the conference.”
According to Melsted, senior pitcher Jenelle Trautmann and senior catcher Jordan Schaffer-Carlson are standout defensive players.
Team members attribute their current strengths to the progress made during the off-season practices.
“If you look at how we were during the fall, we are not the team we were when we first started playing,” senior Lindsay Spanton said. “With all the practices, lifting and doing stuff on our own, we’ve definitely come a long way. All the hard work is finally paying off, which is good to see.”
Melsted hopes that being able to focus on “little things” while practicing outside will lead to more improvements.
“[We’re] just trying to polish things up,” she said. “Those little things are what knock you out at tournament time.”