Over a week after Augustana students finished their last day of classes for the spring semester, one group of Vikings was still hard at work.
On Memorial Day of 2019, the Augustana softball team won the last two games of their best-of-three series against Texas A&M Kingsville, crowning the Vikings as NCAA Division II National Champions. The team was honored at the season-opening football game on Saturday, Sept.7, where its national championship banner was unveiled.
“It was pretty unbelievable,” senior Kendall Cornick said. “I think there were a lot of tears of joy.”
The Vikings managed to secure their second national championship in program history and tie for the program’s record for the highest number of wins in a season, 61-11.
“It is such a rarity to win a national championship,” head coach Gretta Melsted said. “I think when you’ve had the amount of success [the team has had], the amount of respect that you have for actually winning it becomes greater because you know how hard it is to be that good—at that high of a level—for that long.”
With only two losing seasons in the program’s history and appearances in the NCAA playoffs in nine of the past 10 years, the team is no stranger to success. Many of the players felt they were due a title win.
“Our kids felt very good about the spot that they were in,” Melsted said. “Even when we were down 4-0, there was zero panic.”
After a 7-2 loss to the Javelinas in Game 1 and a starting deficit of 4-0 in Game 2, the Vikings rallied back to win 6-4 in games 2 and 3. Sophomore Ashley Mickschl pitched over five scoreless innings in game 2, securing another 6-4 win. Mickschl was also named the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player.
Senior pitcher and infielder Maggie Dunnett hit a two-run homer to put up the first points for Augustana in Game 2. Cornick had the game-winning hit and RBI in the sixth inning of Game 2 that broke the tie and led the Vikings to victory. Freshman outfielder Mary Pardo put up three runs for Augie and senior Samantha Eisenreich had the team high of two hits and fielded the final out of Game 3.
Most players on the team credit their success on the field to their comradery off the field.
Cornick said the women on the team focus on building the chemistry necessary to pull together and win tough games.
“Every single person on this team has to understand that it is more than just you and it’s for a greater contribution to the team,” Cornick said.
This aligns with the team’s philosophy of “controlling the controllables” that they hope will bring them success in the next season and beyond. The Vikings are not looking to defend their title, but rather to remain aggressive and have the same skill, talent and determination that brought home the victory.
As Augustana transitions to Division I athletics, the softball team is excited to prove itself at a higher level of competition.
“Our teams are chock-full of DI kids already,” Melsted said.
Augustana is certainly setting out to prove itself as ready to advance, as this latest win is the fourth national title for the school in the past eight years. Women’s cross-country took home the gold in 2011, the men’s basketball team won the national championship in 2016 and the baseball team won it all in 2017.
The first softball game in the 2019-2020 season is scheduled for Jan. 31, 2020, against the Cameron University Aggies in Houston, Texas.