Christowski’s crew starting in gym, ready for dirt

Christowski%27s+crew+starting+in+gym%2C+ready+for+dirt

by Erin Guzman

An early storm warning is in effect but this one is not in reference to severe winter weather.

Having started practice just last week, the Storm softball season is officially underway. Despite having limited space and lacking adequate surfaces, the squad is making due in order to prepare for their early season tournaments on the road.

The Storm plans to make an early showing at Finlandia University at the end of February in Marquette, Mich., where they will play in an insulated dome. Competing in six games in two days, the Storm hopes to see how they stack up against other Division III competition.

Senior catcher and Midwest All-Region team pick Allie Hock sees this early competition as a springboard for the season ahead.

“Although we must make some adjustments for playing inside, this tournament still manages to give us a good measure at how well we match up against top regional teams,” Hock said. “These games help prepare our team for our spring break trip to the Rebel Games in Florida. The game experience in Michigan gives us an advantage over other teams that don’t have the opportunity to play before arriving in Florida.”

The Rebel Games in Kissimmee, Fla. will host many of the same teams the Storm played against in the post-season Regional Tournament last year. It’s going to take some victories in these games to set the Storm up for a run at this year’s Regional Tournament.

Senior pitcher Bryn Johnson knows the importance of winning every game on the schedule.

“All of the teams we’ll go up against are Division III, and most are from our region,” Johnson said. “Even these early games are extremely important. The more wins you have, the more points your team earns, which determines your placement in the Regional Tournament.”

However the Storm has some shoes to fill.

The Storm graduated five starting seniors from last season, including pitcher Whitney Oviatt, all of whom contributed to the Storm’s successes.

Head coach Henry Christowski sees these gaps in the roster, but is optimistic about the young and talented class that will be stepping up.

“We as a coaching staff are excited because our players are excited,” Christowski said. “I see a lot of potential with this group. We had one of our best first practices last week, and things can only go up. We’re a very young team, but I think we’ll be faster than last year’s team and that will change the way we play.”

With the lack of facilities, the softball squad is working hard to make sure their game is as finely tuned as possible before hitting the road to Michigan.

“We’re working really hard on hitting,” Johnson said. “We want to make sure we can get people on base as quickly as possible. We’re a very aggressive team at the plate, and we want to make sure that carries over into our play right away.”

Hock agrees, and hopes that the little things done in practice can translate onto the field.

“We want the fundamental skills we work on at practice to carry over to game time situations and are able to execute them successfully,” Hock said. “The repetition of these skills will help us make routine plays and hopefully several great plays down the road.”

If these strategies go according to plan, the Storm may be looking at a successful conference and post season.

“We have developed a tough schedule, but we’re going to play at our best, despite having tough roles to fill,” Christowski said. “Our goal is to look to win the conference tournament and advance to the Regional Tournament. From there, the ultimate goal is to make it to nationals.”

Christowski has tasted national success before, having won the Division III National Tournament in 1997 and 1999, along with numerous conference and regional championships. This year’s team is eager for that glory and to build Simpson’s program.

“I want to set a good example for the underclassmen as to what the Simpson Softball program is all about,” Hock said. “I want to give my teammates and coaches everything I’ve got left in my last go-around so we can keep building the winning tradition.”