With first place in the NSIC, winning 19 games straight and sitting on the nation’s longest home winning streak with 43 straight home wins, the Vikings’ softball team is having yet another incredible season.
At 36-7, the Vikings haven’t lost since April 3, and are hitting .367 with an ERA of 2.00. Senior Delaney Young and juniors Torri Chute and Gracey Brink are all hitting over .400 on the season.
Meanwhile, NSIC Preseason Player of the Year Mary Pardo, otherwise known as Mary Yardo, has hit an NSIC-leading 19 home runs. In the circle, seniors Amber Elliott and Ashley Mickschl both sit at 15-2 with 1.36 and 1.65 ERA’s, respectively.
“When it comes to offense, we pride ourselves on getting into the hitting building and putting in extra work,” Pardo said. “You are going to get better at practice, yes, but it really shows that you are bettering yourself when you are going in and continuing to work and take extra cuts. The pitching staff is the same exact way. You will see them going into [the facility to] pitch but also getting into the training room to stay healthy for themselves and the team. We are very good at holding each other accountable to do these things, and I believe it shows one through nine in the line-up.”
The team’s first NSIC game was a doubleheader against Minnesota Crookston on April 23. Mickschl earned the win after pitching four innings, allowing no runs and striking out three. The win was her 15th of the season, but it was her 105th of her storied career, surpassing Jenelle Trautmann for the most in Augustana history.
“I am extremely honored to have my name be in the record books,” Mickschl said. “I can definitely say I am proud of myself for accomplishing this, but I wouldn’t be where I am today without the support of my family, friends, coaches and teammates. As a pitcher, you can’t win without defense and offenses supporting you, so I owe all of these wins to my teammates. All of the teams I have been a part of here at Augie have been so successful, and I think me breaking this record goes to show just how talented the teams at Augie have been over the past five years.”
The Vikings have brought a new definition to home-field advantage. Winning 41 straight at home is incredible on its own, but doing it at two different fields, while the brand new field is still under construction is even more impressive. Mickschl, Pardo and Brink all said it isn’t talked about much amongst the team, and they are doing their best to keep their minds focused on the next game instead of the past.
However, this streak isn’t just the longest in Division II, it’s the longest in every division, and most of the games this season have not been close. It did take the Vikings extra innings to defeat the Upper Iowa Peacocks on April 21, however. A walk-off RBI Triple from Brink scored Chute from first and gave the Vikings the win.
“I’m a huge believer in clearing my head as much as I can before going up to the plate,” Brink said. “There were two outs at that point, and I knew we didn’t want our pitchers to have to go out there again, so before I went up to bat in that situation, I think I just took a deep breath and pictured myself doing well and that was it. If I focus on much else or multiple things, it usually doesn’t go too well for me. When I hit the ball, I think I yelled at it to ‘GO’ so that Torri could score in front of me. It was super fun to watch it play out.”
The Vikings only have a few more series remaining before the postseason begins. The team will be looking to reach their third straight DII softball championships hosted in Denver, Colorado. Having so much experience in these end-of-season runs will give the Vikings an advantage come tournament time.
“I think that we need to continue to hold each other accountable for putting in extra work,” Pardo said. “This is something we know that helps grow our confidence in ourselves and everyone on the team. One other thing that will be very important for us as well is not getting too ahead of ourselves, taking it one game at a time. These are two things that will be very beneficial for us going into the postseason.”