Softball eyes No. 1 spot in NSIC ahead of three double headers

The middle of April has been kind to the Minnesota State University, Mankato softball team. The team has won seven of their past eight games and currently ride a six game win streak into three double headers coming up this week. 

It all started on April 10th, where the team traveled to St. Cloud, Minn. to play St. Cloud State, where the team won the first game of a double header 5-0 before dropping game two that day 2-5. Just two days later the streak began, with the Mavericks downing Upper Iowa 8-1 and 12-11 on a trip down to Fayette. 

The Mavs returned home this past weekend to battle Minnesota Crookston and Bemidji State, which they out scored by a combined 16-1 over the course of four games. Minnesota State now looks forward to their three double headers this week, which begins with a road trip to Sioux Falls to play the Cougars. 

Sioux Falls has had an up and down season so far, currently having them sit at .500 with a 17-17 overall record. The Cougars are 5-8 in conference play inside the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference and ride a two game losing streak into the double header against the Mavericks today. 

Sioux Falls has not struggled to get their bats going this season, as they have four starting batters over a .300 batting average. It’s their pitching, however, that has seen the team float around the .500 mark all season.

No pitcher on the roster allows an earned run average (ERA) under 3.5 this season, and only one pitcher has a positive record on the mound. However, the Cougars lean on sophomore Hanna Cress to steer the ship in the pitching department, and she has collected nine wins on the season to go along with nine losses. Cress has an ERA of 3.72 and has posted 74 strikeouts in 101.2 innings pitched.

The Mavericks then travel home to face Northern State, who recently broke a six game losing streak with a 1-0 win over St. Cloud State on Wednesday. The Northern State Wolves come into the double header with an 11-29 overall record while going 3-15 in NSIC play. 

Despite not winning many games, the Wolves have one of the best batters in the NSIC with redshirt freshman Liv Richardson. Richardson has posted a .430 batting average to go along with 30 RBIs and seven home runs in 128 at bats. 

Just like the Cougars, the Wolves struggle to keep runners off the bases. Northern State combines for a 5.82 ERA on the mound while giving up an average of .309 at the plate to opposing batters. 

The Mavs then return the next day to face MSU Moorhead, who similarly has struggled this season to find themselves in the win column. The Dragons will have four games before facing Minnesota State, but currently have a 6-26 overall record and 3-13 record in the NSIC. 

Moorhead has struggled in both batting and pitching this season, with no batters topping a .270 average at the plate. The Dragons have an allowed batting average of .352. 

With three teams located in the bottom half of the NSIC standings on the schedule for this week’s games, the Mavericks will have a good shot at topping Augustana in the NSIC standings this weekend. Minnesota State has an NSIC record of 14-4, which is two games behind Augustana at 16-2. 

With nearly eight batters above .300 in batting average on the Mavs, MSU should be able to do a lot of damage to teams who struggle on the mound this weekend. The Mavericks also rely on senior Mackenzie Ward on the mound themselves, who posts an ERA under 1 and has a dominant 21-3 record in 27 appearances.

Header Photo: Freshman catcher Ella Schulz has been solid for the Mavericks in her first season behind the plate, recording 51 put outs in 14 starts. Schulz has appeared in the batter’s box 28 times, recording two RBIs on four hits. (Emily Lansman/The Reporter)

Write to Kole Buelow at kole.buelow@mnsu.edu.

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