UMD Softball look to power up a birth to the division II tournament

 Jordyn Thomas (12), joins in on the huddle. Photo courtesy of Dave Harwig       

Jordyn Thomas (12), joins in on the huddle. Photo courtesy of Dave Harwig       

Three quarters of the way through the regular season, the University of Minnesota-Duluth softball team is one of the hottest teams in the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference. At 34-9, they currently sit in third in the conference with only Winona State and Augustana ahead of them by only a single game. They have also been consistently one of the best teams offensively this season.

“We got a pretty deep lineup offensively, we have a lot of kids in the lineup than can just flat out hit.” said UMD softball head coach Jen Walter. “When you score runs a lot of good things happen and when you score a lot of runs, it puts less pressure on any individual player so they can swing more freely.”

 Hannah Schmoll takes a swing against the University of Minnesota-Crookston. Photo courtesy of Dave Harwig

Hannah Schmoll takes a swing against the University of Minnesota-Crookston. Photo courtesy of Dave Harwig

The Bulldogs lead the conference in home runs and slugging percentage. They also have outscored their opponents by more than double the amount of runs they have given up. The team currently has six players in the conference’s top 100 for batting average. One of them, Hannah Schmoll, a senior, has been the starting center fielder since her freshman year and she sees something different in this year’s offense.

“We have a strong one through nine.” Schmoll said. “If someone is having an off day or they’re not hitting well, there’s eight other people that are going to pick them up. I think in the past that’s something we haven’t had.”

Even though the team is having a great offensive year their main goal for the season has always been in their sights.

“First and foremost is to win the conference,” said Walter, “and get to the regional tournament and then do damage once we get there. We’re not gonna be satisfied until we win a national championship.”

A note on how seeding for the conference tournament and the Division II tournament works. There are three conferences in each region, each conference has about 14 to 16 teams. Only eight of those teams make it to the Division II tournament, the three conference tournament winners and five other teams that are chosen based off the region rankings. Region rankings are like power rankings where they account for the schools win/loss percentage, record against teams in your region, non-conference record, and strength of schedule. But everyone on the team knows the focus right now is on the conference tournament.

“The thought in the back of our mind is to just win the tournament.” Schmoll said. “Just to guarantee ourselves a birth because you never know what’s going to happen.”

Even with nearly identical records with no. 21 Augustana and one of the best offenses, the Bulldogs have not been ranked the entire year. They have gotten one receiving vote two different times, weeks five and six.

“We can’t let it affect us,” said freshman Jordyn Thomas, “but it definitely lit a fire under us and I think we’ve proved a lot of people wrong.”

The team is confident in their ability to beat any team, the hard part is just whether they can perform on the field.

“We just gotta win as many games as we can.” Schmoll said. “If we bring our energy every game then there isn’t a team that can beat us in the conference.”

 

SportsVinny Harvieux