Another season is in the books for the Minnesota State University, Mankato Maverick’s softball team. The team banded together to mount themselves above a .700 winning percentage, finishing with a 45-17 record. Along the way, pitcher Coley Ries shined and dominated all season long.
The team did not jump off to the hottest start to open the year. Among their first eight games the Mavs tallied a 4-4 record. Once the weather started heating up, so did the Mavericks. They started to mount a string of victories that put them on a seven-game win streak, as they won their next 11 of 12 games.
To finish up the season, the Mavs clinched the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference Championship (NSIC) after splitting wins against the University of Augustana Vikings. The victory marked the fourth time the Mavs softball team brought the title home, and set them up as the frontrunner in the NSIC Softball Tournament.
The Mavs picked up two wins over Southwest Minnesota State and Augustana, but playing against the Upper Iowa University Peacocks proved to be their demise in the tournament. Their first meeting on day two was an incredibly tight affair that resulted in a 1-0 victory by Upper Iowa.
Day three started off well for MSU, as they walloped University of Minnesota – Duluth 10-1 thus setting up a final showdown with Upper Iowa. After dominating UMD in only five innings, the Mavs second outing with the Peacocks went 16 innings which turned out to be the longest game a Mavericks softball team has played in the last 15 seasons. The team got the edge the second meeting and beat Upper Iowa 2-1.
In what ended up being the best of three tie breakers and the championship game, the Mavs took on the Peacocks once again. Following the trend of the first two games, there was slightly more scoring but still the game was closely contested. When the last pitch was thrown, it was the Peacocks who would leave the tournament as champions. The Mavericks would lose, 3-2.
Unfortunately, MSU’s year ended just as shaky as it started. The team’s last outing was participating in the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Regionals. MSU got off to a nice start by picking up a win over Northwest Missouri State with an ending score of 1-0. That one run scored ended up being the only score the team would achieve.
On day two, the Mavs fell to Arkansas Tech 2-0 in 11 innings. Later on in the day the Mavs crossed paths with a familiar foe in Upper Iowa University. Perhaps a bit fatigued from the extra innings earlier in the day, the Mavericks were never able to get anything going against the Peacocks. The year ended for the Mavs after falling to the Peacocks yet again, with a score of 2-0. Out of the five times the Mavs met up with the Peacocks in 2016 the Mavs had lost three of them, putting the series matchup at 2-3. Look for MSU to play with a chip on their shoulder when these two teams meet next year.
The bright side of this scenario is how well the women played throughout the year. Pitcher Coley Ries in particular had a stellar year. Ries was recently named the D-II NCCA Central Region Pitcher of the Year, as well as being named National Fast-pitch Coaches Association (NFCA) All-American.
Ries helped get to these honors in part by her record setting season for the Mavericks. Ries is now the leader in strikeouts for MSU, currently at 1,005 for her career and her 2016 showing of 434 strikeouts places her in 8th place for most in NCAA Division-II history.
Adding to the great play from the Mavs was freshman outfielder McKenzie Paap. Paap was the leader for Mav batters with her 88 hits, as well as scoring 48 runs, while averaging a .433 batting average. Adding to her impressive debut season is her 28 RBI’s and 23 stolen bases. Paap proved herself to be an essential component to the Mavs team success.
With only four seniors on this year’s team going into next year, most of the squad will still be intact. Look for the team to use this year’s experiences to build into an even more formidable force to be reckoned with in 2017.