Over the course of a single season, the Hillsdale softball team went from wondering whether they would make it to the GLIAC tournament to competing for first place on the final day of the conference season.
Though the Chargers were pushed out of the single-elimination tournament after falling 3-1 to Saginaw Valley, the team which ultimately went on to win the tournament, the Chargers had only one less hit than the Cardinals.
“We hit that pitcher better than anyone else did,” head coach Joe Abraham said. “The ball just didn’t fall our way that whole game. It was just a lot of bad luck, to be honest.”
Both teams’ pitchers allowed only one earned run, but two Hillsdale errors, which led directly to Saginaw runs, and the 10 Hillsdale runners left on base contributed to the loss.
“I thought we played really well — Dana pitched great — and we actually hit the ball really well, but we just left 10 people on base,” Abraham said.
The Chargers’ lone run of the game came in the top of the fifth inning, when sophomore left fielder Katie Kish’s RBI single brought in senior catcher Cassie Asselta. Sophomore second baseman Amanda Marra went 2-for-4 in the effort, and senior centerfielder Bekah Kastning, junior third baseman Kelsey Gockman, Kish, and Asselta all had hits. Freshman pitcher Dana Weidinger allowed only one earned run and struck out one in six innings of work.
The tournament was just as competitive as the regular season, with the third- through sixth-seed teams all within one game of each other, and two of the tournament games extending to 11 innings.
“With every team in the GLIAC, you never know who’s going to win, and I think we surprised a lot of people this season having a pretty new team,” freshman utility player Carlin MacDonald-Gannon said. “I think as a whole, we had a pretty great season, and we were in it right until the last inning against Saginaw. I think every team there had a chance to win it all.”
Six Chargers were recognized at the tournament with GLIAC accolades. Kastning and Kish were both named first team all-GLIAC, Weidinger and freshman designated player Sydney San Juan were named second team all-GLIAC, and Asselta and freshman shortstop Sam Catron were named honorable mention all-GLIAC. Kastning was also made first team all-region, and is one of 25 nominees for the NFCA Division II National Player of the Year.
Kastning said in addition to improvements in hitting over the course of the season, team members stepping up in their individual roles helped the Chargers’ reach their fourth consecutive winning season.
“Everyone did a really good job of accepting their roles and doing exactly what they needed to do, and that helped the team a lot,” Kastning said.
Abraham said the overall youth of the team was complemented by strong leadership from the team’s three seniors.
“The other thing that was fun about this season was the senior leadership we had from Cassie, Bekah, and Kyra,” he said. “You couldn’t ask for better seniors and better leaders and better people.”
The Chargers will move to the Great Midwest Athletic Conference next year, with this season’s tournament being their last in the GLIAC.
“It was a great season,” assistant coach Riley Johnson said. “The girls did incredibly well. They bought into the program, the culture, which is huge, and their growth over the season was great to see. I’m looking forward to next year and seeing what we can do in the GMAC.”