Junior third third baseman Kelsey Gockman batted in the Chargers’ lone run of the weekend. (Sarah Klopfer / Courtesy)

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.”