Thanks to a stellar offense, the team went 8-4 during its time in Florida
Sports | Jenny Hudalla
Photo for The Clarion courtesy of BU Sports Information.
It didn’t take long for Bethel’s softball team to get warmed up in Florida during spring break. After dropping their first two games, the Royals proceeded to win eight of the remaining 10 competitions, announcing their presence as a serious MIAC contender.
From beginning to end, the trip was characterized by decisive wins and narrow losses. In seven of their eight wins, the Royals won by at least four runs, and they were defeated by only one run in three of their four losses. The team finished with a +58 run differential.
Perhaps most notable was Bethel’s mid-tournament win against Thomas College, when the Royals outscored their opponents by 18 runs.
Senior Megan Matson led the team in RBIs, going 3-of-4 at the plate with two singles and a double. Sophomore Kal Sorensen delivered the only home run in the 20-2 victory, finishing the day with three RBIs.
“Our new hitting coach, Brian Tilton, has turned our offense around,” Sorensen said. “He works with each player individually, so it’s not a cookie-cutter swing. He meets all of our needs, because we all have different swings.”
The Royals’ offense has been the biggest contributing factor to their early success. The team has hit 15 home runs in 16 games and driven in 124 runs compared to the opponents’ 66. Freshman catcher Caroline Kivisto leads the team in batting with a .649 average, posting 24 hits and five home runs in the scorebook thus far. She also has the highest on-base percentage, sitting at .700.
“Our team has been hitting really well, and I think that has really helped me,” Kivisto said. “I was able to feed off that, and it gave me more confidence in my own abilities. I’ve done way better than I ever hoped I would, and I think that’s because of the team.”
However, the Royals face tough competition with St. Thomas and Gustavus, who have respectively finished first and second in the MIAC for the last three years. St. Thomas has suffered only three conference losses in that period.
Head coach Rod Radcliffe said the team aims to prepare itself for MIAC play through its competitive non-conference schedule, which included many of the teams the Royals defeated in Florida. “We might not be the favorites for some of the [conference] games, but we are becoming very competitive against good teams,” Radcliffe said.
While the team lost its first post-Florida series against No. 7 Luther College by a slim margin, the Royals’ hot bats didn’t cool down. Scoring a total of 15 runs to Luther’s 19, the team was hindered only by its defense, which made eight errors that allowed 12 unearned runs in the series.
Still, having finished the 2012 season in the middle of the pack with a 16-24 overall record (10-12 MIAC), the Royals have a strong combination of clutch and power hitting that they hope will propel them forward in the standings.
“Eight of our 10 starters have hit home runs, and our first five hitters are such a threat,” Sorensen said. “Our offense is on fire. The MIAC can’t walk all of us.”