Luther College Chips

Softball finishes first in IIAC tournament

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Luther softball team poses after their win.

Luther softball team poses after their win.

Photo courtesy of Renae Hartl

Photo courtesy of Renae Hartl

Luther softball team poses after their win.

Gillian Klein, Staff Writer

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The Iowa Conference softball tournament play began Friday, May 4 at Coe College in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Luther swept the competition with a 3-0 record. In-season conference play determined the seeding for the tournament and Luther’s in-conference record of 32-8 seeded them as number three.

According to utility player Brooke Balk (‘20), this year’s team dynamic and approach have gotten the team to where they are.

“Never in Luther softball have we had eight returning seniors,” Brook said. “Not only that, but with the impending winter weather just clearing up, we had over 90 indoor practices. It’s been a different season, but our adaptability and leadership got us where we are.”

Luther showcased this team dynamic in the tournament this past weekend. Play began on Friday for Luther against Simpson College.

Between the synchronized cheering of fans and teams, Luther scored three runs in the first inning. Shortstop Anna Strien (‘18) hit a double and drove in infielder Natalie Stockman (‘18). This added to the 54 doubles Strien has hit during her school career. Strien also added another RBI to her record, now a career total of 161, and became Luther’s all-time leader in this statistic.

Second basemen Bailey Victoria (‘18) hit in an additional two runs with a single to finish the first inning. Following the success of the first inning, the Norse again scored three runs in the third inning. Catcher Addy Pender (‘19) hit a sacrifice fly to bring in another run. This was immediately followed by utility player Bailey Hocker (‘18) hitting a two-run home run to left field. The Norse now stood with a 6-0 advantage.

Third basemen Blake Banowetz (‘19) is excited for the team’s offensive success.

“All those indoor practices really paid off since we practiced hitting so much,” Banowetz said. “As [Head Softball Coach Renae Hartl] said, as a team, we are in a place we have never been so we are going to do things we have never done before.”

Defensively, pitcher Samantha Bratland (‘19) held strong, increasing her record on the mound to 19-4. Bratland allowed no hits, walked three, and struck out four batters.

Relief pitcher Courtney Cooper (‘21) pitched the final two innings of the day, allowing two hits and one walk. The Norse concluded their first game with a 6-0 win in six innings.

The following day, the Norse played Central College. Ashley Burrows (‘18) and Strien combined for seven RBIs in the game. In the fourth inning, Burrows hit a grand slam. Burrows’ hit was then followed by Strien’s three-run blast in the sixth. Victoria also contributed offensively going three for four in the box with an RBI. On the field, Bratland allowed five hits, walked three, and struck out three.

Following their 9-1 defeat of Central, the Norse faced number-one seed Coe College. The game-winning runs were scored in the second inning. Stockman batted in two runs with a single as did Strien with a one-run single. Designated player Paige Timmerman (‘20) drove in the final run at the top of the sixth.

Bratland held her own in the circle. She allowed only five hits and got out of bases loaded during the bottom of the third.

Luther swept the game with a 4-0 defeat of Coe. The win gave Luther a final record of 35-8.

The team’s experiences this season contributed to their success in the tournament. Hartl discussed how the team reflects on every game.

“This team takes their experiences over the past few weeks and reflects on it,” Hartl said. “They use it as a springboard into the post-season and they know how to win.”

The Regional Tournament will be held at Luther on May Friday, May 11 through Sunday, May 13.

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