The No. 1 Augustana softball team (21-3, 9-1 NSIC), sailed past Concordia-St. Paul (CSP) with an 8-0 and 2-0 pair of wins on Saturday, before taking down No. 20 MSU Mankato 3-1 and 9-3 on Sunday afternoon at Bowden Field.
Maybe it was the fact that the players were wearing their gold jerseys. Maybe it was because they were playing on their home field for the first time this year. Or maybe it was just the momentum from their previous three-game win streak in which the Vikings blew out St. Cloud State University and University of Minnesota Duluth.
No matter what, according to head coach Gretta Melsted, the Vikings were landing hits. But that’s not necessarily unusual.
“We hit the ball really well on Saturday,” said Melsted, who coached the Vikings to their NCAA DII National Championship win in 2019. “We’re really known for our power.”
After junior Mary Pardo and senior Kendall Cornick started with a pair of hits in the bottom of the first inning, pitcher Ashley Mickschl laid down a bunt just out of reach of the catcher and put on the speed to outrun the throw to first from third base.
With the bases loaded and facing a 3-2 count, sophomore Torri Chute sent a high-fly ball soaring past the outfielders, good for a run batted in and a 1-0 lead over CSP. Third baseman Abby Lien further contributed to the Vikings’ offensive bout with a line drive of her own into center field, scoring Cornick, followed by a strike into the infield from first baseman Delaney Young, good for another RBI and a 3-0 lead over the Golden Bears.
“We kind of base-hit them to death for a while,” Melsted said. “We were able to kind of play a different style of softball —which is really important.”
But base hits weren’t the only weapons in the Vikings’ arsenal. In the bottom of the third inning, left-handed Pardo continued her attack on CSP, sending a solo home run soaring over the opposite field fence. Lien followed up Pardo’s solo shot homer with a big hit into center field —good for a standing double.
By the bottom of the fifth inning, the Vikings offense had put on a show. The game saw Lien score on a wild pitch, a smooth bunt for a hit from senior Abbie Lund, and a pair of walks from Gracey Brink and Cornick.
Despite the Vikings robust offensive efforts, a full-fledged pitching performance from seniors Amber Elliott and Mickschl was also on display.
“Ashley gave up two hits, and Amber gave up two hits —that’s it,” Melsted said. “They gave up four hits on the day. That’s pretty amazing.”
The Vikings batted down any hope of a CSP comeback with a fifth-inning, second solo home run rocket from Pardo, tripping the NCAA’s eight run rule as the Vikings beat down the bears with a final score of 8-0.
“It was just an all-around great day,” Melsted said. “We had some really big-time plays defensively, too. Our shortstop, Amanda Dickmeyer— I just think she’s the best shortstop in the entire league.”
The Vikings made quick work of CSP in game two, thanks to a comprehensive effort from Elliott, who snagged eight strikeouts on the mound, while Chute and Pardo continued their dominance in the batter’s box.
“In game two we won by the long ball,” Melsted said.
The Vikings’ second win over the Golden Bears saw another solo home run from Pardo, and a long-ball homer from Chute who sent the ball soaring into Bowden Field’s scoreboard, securing the 2-0 win for the team.
The softball team’s success over the weekend didn’t end with Saturday’s pair of wins over CSP. On Sunday, the Vikings again took to Bowden Field where they swept MSU Mankato 3-1 and 9-3, respectively.
In game one against the Mavericks, six different Vikings came up with hits as the team once again remained on trend, swinging big sticks in the box including two solo home runs from Lien and Brink.
“Our team is getting better, and stringing hits together, and being able to put up lots of runs,” said junior Becca Koupal.
In game two Augustana faced a new threat, after going down 0-3 following the Mavericks’ offensive front in the top of the first.
Elliott continued to bring the heat on the mound, striking out eight and shutting down the Mavericks in each inning after the first. The Vikings continued launching their well-oiled offense against the Mavericks, notching 12 hits into the books including a career-first home run from Dickmeyer that scored Koupal and sophomore Bergen Linder.
“Mankato is a great team, I mean, they’re number 20 in the country,” Melsted said. “For us to take two from them today, that was huge.”
The Vikings currently sit atop the NSIC Conference at 9-1 after winning each of their four games over the weekend, and extending their win streak to seven games.
“[I’m] just proud of their effort — proud of their effort all weekend,” Melsted said. “The thing that makes our team special is they play for each other. If we take care of each other, and support each other, watch out for each other, we’re going to put ourselves in a good position to do well,” Melsted said.
The Vikings will hit the ground running this weekend with a double header border battle in North Dakota vs. Minot State (12-12, 5-5 NSIC) on Saturday. On Sunday, the Vikings will play the Univeristy of Mary (2-21, 1-9 NSIC) at 12 p.m. and 2 p.m.
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