MW SOFTBALL: West finds success in final games of Arizona trip
WORTHINGTON -- A year after winning for the first time on its southern trip, the Minnesota West softball team added two more this year. "I always say my career coaching record is about 4-80 in the spring break," MW head coach Rosalie Hayenga-Host...
WORTHINGTON -- A year after winning for the first time on its southern trip, the Minnesota West softball team added two more this year.
"I always say my career coaching record is about 4-80 in the spring break," MW head coach Rosalie Hayenga-Hostikka said. "The hard part is we start every season in the hole as far as records. You kind of have to look at the big picture and figure it's great team bonding. You get to be on the field -- a lot of teams never see the dirt before you play your first conference game. For that, it's worth it. It's not that great when you lose, but that's OK, too."
The Lady Jays finished 2-7 on their trip to Tucson, Ariz.
"We got that win and that was a nice little boost," Hayenga-Hostikka said. "And then we won on the last day. That was a nice way to finish it up and get a little confidence. It was like, 'I think we got better and we're going to be OK.' The first day, you kind of go, 'Oh my gosh.' But you have to keep telling them that we haven't practiced and haven't seen blue sky. The outfielders really, really struggled judging balls and stuff. In here, they are ricocheting off the lights and the rafters. You never get any wind or any sun."
MW struggled early, playing against some top teams in the first part of a week-long trip from March 9-16.
"We played probably the hardest teams first," the coach said. "It was one of those things that worked out where we played the best teams the first two days."
But as the Lady Jays improved, the games became closer.
MW suffered a pair of losses to Black Hills State's junior varsity team, 9-1 and 8-3.
It also lost 11-7 to the College of the Desert out of Palm Desert, Calif.
"We've gone down to Florida a couple times and not even competed the whole time we were down there," Hayenga-Hostikka said. "You don't learn much when you never get to play seven innings. We lost 14-11 and 11-7, and we did have a couple blowouts the first couple, we played some buzz saws. We competed very well. Winning always makes it much nicer."
The Lady Jays were able to bounce back with a 16-0 victory against Madison Area Technical College before suffering a 14-11 loss to Mayville State.
MW then ended its trip with a 12-4 victory against Madison Tech, giving it two wins in the final three games.
"We ended on a win so we're on a streak right now," the coach said. "Hopefully we can keep that going."
And MW almost didn't make the trip.
With a handful of softball players also on the Lady Jay basketball team, they were one victory away from extending their season.
But the basketball season came to an abrupt end with a loss at Anoka-Ramsey in the Region XIII playoffs, giving the players about two days to prepare for the softball season.
"If we would have won that game, we wouldn't have gone to Tucson," Hayenga-Hostikka said. "Not trying not to jinx anything, we didn't even talk about softball. We just kind of kept softball out of mind. It was very hard for them to get in the mood. They were very disappointed in the loss. It's not easy, in two days, to get over the loss and get into softball mode. Those first two days, they even said it to me, 'I'm not in the softball mode.' But as the week progressed, it got better. It was the same with me. It was hard for me even to switch my gears and get it. Those kids had not seen a pitch, hadn't hardly taken a grounder or thrown a ball."
And while the Lady Jays lost more games than they won, the experience was valuable for the players and coaches.
"It's wonderful when you get down there and it's 85 degrees and sunny and you're on real dirt," the coach said. "There's nothing better than that. The gym gets so long. Sometimes we get a week of practice in and you're already kind of tired. We just had two days and went down there. It was probably the best thing we could do. You just throw them into the fire and it was learn by trial and error and take grounders. When you take grounders off the gym floor, it helps a little, but you still don't get the same bounces you do off the dirt.
"Just to go down there we got a couple practices in between games, so we could be on some dirt and do some of those things. It was a great trip."
On the trip, Katherine Kazemba led MW with a .481 batting average. She scored nine runs, hit a double and had a home run.
Sam Lynn finished the trip with a .433 average. She scored seven times, hit a trio of doubles, a triple and stole eight bases.
Kaitlin Banck hit .407, drove in 10 runs, scored 10 times, hit a triple and stole three bases.
LoRel Christensen hit .385 to go with three doubles, a home run and six RBIs.
Alyson Drooger finished with a .381 average. She drove in nine runs, hit a triple and had four sacrifices in the trip.
Steph Maras hit an even .300, scored 10 runs and stole five bases.
In the circle, Katie Hadler and Emily Ebbers each picked up a win. Maras led the Lady Jays with 18 innings pitched and 14 strikeouts.
Minnesota West has a scheduled doubleheader at Morningside on Sunday, beginning at 1 p.m.