The Western softball team’s 2017 schedule has been announced, which includes non-conference matchups in Utah, California and Hawaii.
The schedule also includes their annual trip to the Tournament of Champions hosted by California State University, Stanislaus, in Modesto, California. The tournament takes place over three days, from March 31 to April 2. The team will also return to the Dixie State Classic Tournament from February 9-11 to finish the non-conference season in Saint George, Utah.
The team will then take two weeks to practice before getting into the Great Northwest Athletic Conference play.
“I think we have a different mindset going into this season, and we’re all on the same page, so I really think this year we’re going to bring it all to our games.”
GNAC play begins with four home games over two days against Montana State, Billings, on March 4 and 5, at Viking Field in Bellingham, Washington.
“Our conference has gotten stronger and stronger every year so that prepares us for the postseason,” Western’s softball head coach Amy Suiter said.
Last year, the team finished with a 15-13 conference record. They narrowly missed the GNAC championships, finishing one game behind fourth-place Saint Martin’s University (16-12).
“[Being one game short] lights a fire, right?” Suiter said. “A lot of times, lessons aren’t learned verbally. Sometimes they need to be learned in person.”
“Every single game matters. Every pitch matters,” Suiter said.
Junior first baseman, Emily Benson feels confident in the ability of this team to make the playoffs after last year’s disappointing finish. Benson believes the team’s strength is its passion.
“I think we have a different mindset going into this season, and we’re all on the same page, so I really think this year we’re going to bring it all to our games,” Benson said.
The Vikings have a deep pitching rotation this year, Suiter said. The team is returning two pitchers, junior Makinlee Sellevold and sophomore Shearyna Labasan. There will also be two freshman pitchers stepping up: Paityn Cyr and Anna Kasner.
Depth at the pitching position is important in Division II softball, as most games are doubleheaders, sometimes on back-to-back days.
“Doubleheaders are tough. You have to have two or hopefully three strong pitchers,” Suiter said. “Having four deep this year will be huge.”
The lineup also will be rich with experienced talent, Suiter said.
“We have a lot of returners from the lineup that will continue to hit well. Emily Benson and Makinlee [Sellevold] hit well for us last year,” Suiter said.
Last season Benson had a .342 batting average and set the school record for home runs in a season with 12.
Benson is excited about the upcoming season’s schedule.
“I feel like our conference is going to be really good. It’s always fun to get to travel,” she said.
Freshman outfielder Mackenzie Palmer is excited about the opportunity to travel with her team and for the season to start.
“It will be a good way to start off the season [in Hawaii],” Palmer said.
Suiter and Benson said the best games for fans to turn out to are the doubleheaders against Central Washington University on Saturday, March 18, and Saint Martin’s University on Sunday, March 19. All Western home games will be played at Viking Field.