WATERTOWN, Wis. -- 2018 put a couple of challenges in the Sabercats' way, but they persisted and finished the campaign on a hard-earned high note.
So Much for the Planner
One can make a strong case for the weather being the main headline-grabber during the season, as heavy rains and two April snowstorms heavily influenced the Sabercats' schedule.
So much so that the team had just three outdoor doubleheaders proceed as originally planned.
Like the Sabercats' baseball team, the softball team had to wait inside for an 11-day stretch and had a stretch of 23 days during which they played just two doubleheaders. This unexpected stymie forced the Sabercats to play 14 games in the final 10 days of the season. This made it difficult for an already-inexperienced team to find their groove, let alone to stay focused when the cancellations kept coming.
Still, despite all the disappointments of a shortened season, the Sabercats ended with a well-executed win over Silver Lake College on a wild night on the shores of Lake Michigan (story). This season-ending win was a welcome result after a rebuilding year for MBU.
Harmony Bailey busted her sophomore slump before it even existed. The Yooper led Maranatha in hits (25) and doubles (5) and added 16 RBI, one home run, and one triple this season. Bailey was the Sabercats' go-to choice in the circle, and she recorded her 100th career strikeout on April 24 against Silver Lake College.
Tina Kolinski climbed into the Maranatha top 10 in the following categories, marking a standout finish to a four-year career: stolen base percentage (.929 52/56), games played (101), games started (99), runs scored (65), hits (83), total bases (104), steals (52), and putouts (235). Kolinski's speed and athleticism will be difficult for the Sabercats to replace next season.
Megan Rasmussen made her return to the diamond after filling the role of assistant coach last year. The grad student scored a career-high 19 runs on the season and led the Sabercats with a .383 on-base percentage. Rasmussen also filled the third base position, and she made some impressive defensive plays, once again proving her worth with the glove.
Taylor Thome was the breakout rookie this year. After a slow start at the plate in which she had just three hits in her first 30 at-bats, the shortstop whacked an impressive 14 hits over her next nine games. Thome's breakout performance was a 3-3 day with a double and two triples against Mount Mary on April 25. By the end of the season, Thome cemented herself as an essential part of the Sabercats' lineup.
Awards from the Association of Division III Independents are still to be determined. Meanwhile, the team voted on postseason awards, which Coach Rob Thompson announced in athletic awards assembly before the week of final exams:
Harmony Bailey - MVP
Megan Rasmussen - Golden Glove
Kelly Dyck - Inspiration Award
Tina Kolinski - Coach's Award
Trisha Wright - Most Improved
Was 2018 a successful season even though the team went 2-24? In Coach Thompson's mind, the program made significant strides forward.
"[Our] outlook was always positive, even during disappointing losses or weather," Thompson said. "We worked hard at taking a better mental approach to hitting, fielding, and anticipating the next play. With only a few student-athletes with softball experience, it was always a challenge to be competitive."
Despite the lack of wins during the season, however, the Sabercats were able to top the season off with a well-deserved win at Silver Lake College - a result that added a silver lining to the 2018 campaign.
"To finish a season playing solid defense and being aggressive at the plate was huge," said Thompson. "The final game, ending with a win, will pay dividends for years to come. The late dinner after the game and the trip home were fantastic experiences. Plain and simple, the girls and coaches just had a fun time."
Winning the final game was good, but the Sabercats' overall process bodes well for the future.
"Playing through adversity, playing through limited experience at key positions, playing through disappointment, playing through the cancelations/postponements and rescheduling, all of these are real-life learning opportunities. Both returning players and those graduating will benefit from these experiences as they apply the patience and trust in God’s perfect will and timing to their everyday life," Thompson noted.
Coach Thompson's philosophy was tested and lived out during the 2018 season. To Coach T, winning isn't the main objective.
"If I only coached to win championships, if our only purpose for athletic participation and competition was to win banners and trophies, then our season was a flop," Thompson said. "But it was not a flop. It was not a waste of time and resources. Because to play at MBU, and in particular to play softball at MBU is not all about wins, banners, and championships. It's about taking the abilities and talents that God has given each one of us, maximizing them, and then giving God the glory for what He allows us to accomplish both on and off the field. Praise Him!"
To learn more about the Sabercats' softball team, visit their team page here