Softball team suits up for 2020 season

The Augustana softball team is going into the 2020 season with the intent to attack another national championship, but fans can expect the same solid pitching and big-hitting.

“We’re gonna have home runs, we’re gonna be a big power team and we’re gonna steal bases because we’ve got some speed this year,” said head coach Gretta Melsted.

After winning the 2019 Division II National Championship, the Vikings are coming into the season with high expectations, but their focus on creating a new team dynamic, a resolve to work hard and a determination to fight for every point are what will enable them to reach their goal.

Key players for this season include two-time All-American junior pitcher Ashley Mickschl, pitcher junior Amber Elliott, senior outfielder Kendall Cornick and sophomore outfielder Mary Pardo.

Mickschl and Pardo are in the top 50 player watchlist for DII softball in the country and will help lead the Augustana team this season. Yet, according to Melsted, it will be hard for the team to fill in the gap created when senior catcher Maggie Kadrlik graduated last year.

“Maggie Kadrlik, who’s an All-American here, was the heart and soul of this team. She’s a huge loss,” Melsted said. “That’s just like ripping the heart out of your chest — she was here for five years.”

Along with the loss of Kadrlik, the team will also miss seniors catcher/infielder Shannon Petersen, infielder/outfielder Samantha Eisenreich and pitcher/infielder Maggie Dunnett.

“I think that losing the seniors that we had last year, it is unfortunate. But we have some big talent coming in to fill those roles,” said Pardo.

Among the incoming talent are freshman catcher Torri Chute, freshman outfielder Gracey Brink and freshman infielder Olivia Hazelbaker. These are new players to watch out for, according to Melsted.

However, one player that fans won’t be seeing right away is senior pitcher Olivia Wolters, who is out with a foot injury. But Melsted is confident in Wolters’ return at some point during the season.

The Vikings have already seen success this season at the Arkansas Tech Winter Invite. While there, Augustana beat No. 10 ranked Texas A&M-Commerce, and the Vikings now hold an 8-2 record.

While Augustana will face difficult matchups throughout the region as the season continues, Winona State University remains a long-standing rival. In 2019, Winona State had a perfect season (32-0) until Augustana took them out in the conference tournament and regional tournament.

“[Winona State] is going to be gunning for us this year, and they will be a formidable opponent,” Melsted said. “But I would say they probably have their eye on us more than we do on them. We put our focus very much on a national level and just really focus on getting to the national tournament or the NCAA tournament.”

The players are also aware that they will face some tough competition, particularly from schools in the region.

“There’s a lot of competition there,” Pickett said. “That’s kind of one of our goals: Beat the purple teams. So that’s USF, Winona and Mankato.”

The Vikings will travel to Clermont, Florida, on Saturday, Mar. 7, to compete in the Spring Games. Play is set to begin at 9 a.m.


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