by Jesse Donahue
As spring draws near, so does the University of Northwestern – St. Paul’s 2014 softball season. This year’s team got going with practices Jan. 24, and it begins non-conference play Feb. 28 against Wartburg College.
This year’s team is coming off a year in which it had an overall record of 18-18, with a conference record of 13-8. The team is looking to build off those numbers in 2014.
Senior Kelsey Stoltman said, “We are working to be the best team that we can be. The team worked really hard in the off-season to get in shape, and we are continuing to work hard in practice to hone our skills. As long as we play as well as we can, we have all the talent to be really successful.”
The team brings back two key pieces, including a pair of top hitters in Stoltman and Morgan Pfaff.
To go along with her quality hitting, Stoltman was one of the UMAC’s best defensive players while roaming center field. She was awarded the honor of being a part of the UMAC’s All-Defense Team to close out the 2013 season.
“I hope that I can make an impact again this season and would be honored to be named to the All Conference teams in any capacity (All-conference, Honorable Mention or Defensive Team), but my goals are more geared to the success of the team,” said Stoltman.
Pfaff, coming off her first year at UNW, saw a successful start to her career as she played in 34 of the team’s 36 games while boasting a .300 batting average.
“My goals for this season are to improve on my defensive skills as a catcher and to improve my swing in order to be a better benefit to the team. Another goal I have is to really invest in the team and get to know the incoming freshmen,” said Pfaff.
With a total of 11 freshmen out of the team’s 16 players, this year’s team will have a new look compared to last season’s squad that included only three freshmen.
Senior Erin Kleinjan said, “Our freshman class will be contributing greatly to this team. We have a lot of holes to fill. Most of the girls are trying out new positions to fill the gaps in our defense.”
The energy and overall ability of the freshmen has also been noticed by fellow teammates.
“I think it is refreshing having more younger players because they bring a high energy to the team that will really help us excel,” said Pfaff.
“We are so blessed by their willingness to be flexible to try new things, and I am amazed by the talent,” said Kleinjan.
As far as season expectations go, Kleinjan thinks this year’s team is one that can surprise many of the UMAC teams.
“I am really looking forward to the season because the UMAC has no idea what kind of a team we will be this year. We graduated our whole starting infield and our pitchers. Now we have a whole new team. We are the dark horses of the conference,” said Kleinjan.