After concluding conference play last Friday, the Hillsdale softball team will enter the GLIAC postseason tournament as the No. 6 seed, facing Saginaw Valley at noon on Friday. This marks the third consecutive year the team has made the conference tournament.
“At the start of the year, for us coaches, our goal was to make the conference tournament. Because with such a young team and all new pitchers, we knew it was going to be difficult,” head coach Joe Abraham said. “So we’re pretty happy to be in the tournament. There are some good teams who aren’t there.”
Five teams, including Hillsdale, entered the final weekend of conference games with a chance at winning the regular season title. Though Hillsdale dropped both games of their final doubleheader against Wayne State, Abraham said he is happy with the year as a whole.
“Even though we lost twice to Wayne State last friday, we feel pretty good about where we’re at, because we have not suffered any sustained kind of slump all year — we’ve been pretty consistent,” he said. “We just got beat by Wayne State, by possibly the top pitcher in the country, and we’re not the only team that’s been defeated by her.”
The Chargers lost game one 9-1 in six innings, when Wayne State pitcher Lyndsay Butler held Hillsdale to three hits. The lone run of the weekend came from an RBI single by junior third baseman Kelsey Gockman.
In game two, the Chargers weren’t able to get any runs across, though Abraham said batting improved between games. Freshman pitcher Erin Gordon allowed no runs in five innings of relief work, preventing Wayne State from increasing a 4-0 lead. Gockman and freshman shortstop Sam Catron each had a hit, and sophomore second baseman Amanda Marra went 2-for-3 in the effort.
“We got to see Lyndsay Butler twice — that will definitely help if we play them this weekend in the tournament,” senior pitcher Kyra Rodi said. “It didn’t show in the stats, but in the second game we got a better feel for what she threw.”
Both Butler and Hillsdale’s senior centerfielder Bekah Kastning were both named to the NFCA top 25 finalists for player of the year in DII softball. This season, Kastning had a record-breaking 78 hits, 40 runs scored, and 18 stolen bases.
“That’s a huge honor,” Abraham said. “You’ve got about 4,500 players in all of DII softball, and Bekah’s one of the top 25.”
Freshman pitcher Dana Weidinger also set the school record for most innings pitched in a single season after 185 ⅔ innings of work and tallying 102 strikeouts.
As a team, Hillsdale has scored 105 runs, second only to Saginaw Valley, whom the Chargers will play against in the tournament this weekend. This is the third consecutive year the Chargers will face the Cardinals in the GLIAC tournament.
After the Saginaw game, Hillsdale will play either the winner or the loser of the Wayne State and Ferris State game later on Friday in the double-elimination tournament. Assistant coach Riley Johnson said the weather forecast calls for rain on Friday and Saturday, and the tournament may be changed to a single-elimination format if too many games are rained out on the first two days of the tournament.
Regardless of tournament weather, Hillsdale’s winning season — 13-9 in the conference and 25-22 overall — has earned the team a place in what will be the Chargers’ final GLIAC tournament.
“We’re excited,” Rodi said. “We’re looking forward to going out and getting another chance to play.”