Softball team is showing signs of contending

by Cassie Norman

The Simpson softball team is fired up and ready to get the new season going, set to begin on Saturday, March 4, at the Westminster Tournament in Fulton, Mo.

Although last year’s season went well and the team was able to accomplish many goals, they did not end up where they wanted to be. They finished the season tied for fourth in the Iowa Conference and with an overall record of 27-11.

Coach Henry Christowski admitted that this was not up to their expectations, but observed the disappointment has made both the coaches and the players return this year with a new sense of purpose.

“Practice has been going great,” Christowski said. “It’s been a pleasant surprise in regard to the new attitude and work ethic. It’s going to pay off dividends in the end for the players, coaching staff and the whole school.”

The players held a meeting before the season even started to sit down and talk about this season’s potential and where they wanted to be standing at the close of the season. According to senior Heather Beeler, this really paid off and is showing itself in practice.

“Practice has been going very well,” Beeler said. “There’s some ups and downs at the beginning of the season while everyone is working out the kinks. We’ve just got to brush the dust off the cleats, but things are looking sound.”

The unseasonably warm weather has also been an advantage for the team by allowing them to practice more outside than in past years. This helps give the team more room to play and do more drills as well as get a feel for game-like surfaces rather than a gym floor.

The team is bringing many new elements to the field this year, including some fresh faces in the varsity lineup who are expected to make an impact.

“We have some experience,” junior Halie Stalzer said, “But a lot of people are filling in new varsity spots. If we all settle into our spots, we’ll be good.”

Along with several new players stepping up, including a completely new outfield, the team also boasts a much quicker squad. Other strengths include hitting and pitching.

“Pitching is a big strength for us,” Christowski said. “Our pitching staff is one of the strongest in the conference.”

Even though all of these skills will hopefully play a big role in the team’s success, Beeler points to well-rounded leadership and great team chemistry. She said that the leadership is coming from everybody and not just the upperclassmen and she recognizes it as their number one weapon.

A new format will be instituted this year, which will add a conference tournament. Only the top six finishers in the regular season will make it to the tournament. The winner automatically advances to postseason play. Another change is that the number of large bids in Division III has increased by 13.

“This puts the chance of postseason play back up to where it was a few years ago,” Christowski said. “It had been harder to make it.”

The team has come into the season focused and set its sights on a conference championship, which would mean a trip to the conference tournament. The drive and motivation is evident as everyone works hard in practice towards the same goal.

“We’re getting to a point where none of us have won conference or been in the tournament, so if we can do that, it’d be good,” Stalzer said.