The Minnesota State Mavericks softball team earned their first National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) National Championship title May 29 in Salem, Virginia. The team completed the two-game sweep of the Angelo State Rambelles with a 5-1 win.
“Going and being apart of the National Tournament is an indescribable feeling. Being there with your best friends is something so special. This tournament was an unbelievable experience and I will never forget the journey we took as a team to get to the College World Series,” junior outfielder Jess Meidl said of the experience. “Having the opportunity to play in the National Championship game as our last game together was perfect. I couldn’t think of a better way to end our season.”
Minnesota State ends its 2017 season with a 64-7 record, second-most wins for an NCAA Division-II National Champion since North Dakota State’s 2000 season where they finished 68-10.
Pitcher Coley Ries finished her career as a Maverick with an impressive 41-3 record after tossing a complete game and retiring 14 Angelo State batters. Ries totaled a career 1.60 earned run average (ERA) with 119 wins, 29 shutouts over 999.1 innings in the circle. She has struck out a total of 1481 batters in more than 4000 batters faced. Ries finishes as the Schutt Sports / National Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA) Division-II National Player of the Year, Division-II Conference Commissioners Association (D2CCA) Pitcher of the Year, D2CCA All-American First Team, NFCA All-American First Team, CoSIDA Academic All-American First Team and a finalist for the D-II Honda Athlete of the Year for Softball.
“The entire week was like a dream. It still doesn’t feel real. This is something all of us have dreamed about since we were little and so few people are able to attain it. Going into that final game, as seniors, we knew it was our last game day- win or lose. We wanted so badly to go out on top and make it happy tears to end our careers,” Ries said. “Being able to strike the last girl out was amazing, but truly I just wanted her to get out any way possible so I could run in and celebrate with my team. I can’t thank the athletic department, professors, community, friends and our families for all of the support. We could feel the love all the way in Virginia.”
The game remained scoreless until Ashley Thell connected on a double to left-center to bring home McKenzie Paap in the third inning. The Mavericks added two more in the fourth, with Carly Esselman bunting to send Samantha Buhmann to third before scoring on a throwing error. After two more bunts by Dana Mogren and Alyssa Rickels, Esselman scored on a fielder’s choice.
“It was an unbelievable experience. As a coach you work hard everyday toward that goal of being a National Champion, and now it has happened, it is such a surreal experience. This season and Team 33 have been phenomenal. They have been driven, focused, and they bought into the process and trusted it,” head coach Lori Meyer said. “They just continued to get one percent better each day since I asked that of them back in the fall. When you are a team of 18 [players and coaches] getting one percent better each day over nine months that allows for success and success leads to confidence, and team 33 did that. They played loose and relaxed at the National Tournament.”
The Rambelles lone run came in the top of the sixth with a homerun off the bat of senior pitcher Kenedy Urbany. The Mavericks responded with two more in the bottom of the inning to secure the title. Jess Meidl singled to left, bringing home Rickels and Kennedy. The team recorded a total of five runs on nine hits.
Meidl, Rickels, Esselman and Paap were named to the 2017 Division II All-Tournament Team following the game while Ries was named Most Outstanding Player.
“The whole thing was an experience of a lifetime. We kept saying the hardest part is to get to Salem; once we made it there, the pressure was off and we were able to just go play ball. Playing in the National Championship and winning it is something you dream of as a little girl. To be able to make that dream a reality is nothing short of remarkable,” Rickels said. “This team is my second family and to be able to get to share this with them is truly special. We will have bonds and memories that last a lifetime because of what we accomplished not only during this past week, but the entire season. It’s an honor to be apart of a team that will have such a lasting legacy at MSU.”