BLOOMINGTON, Minn. -- With local dome games wrapping up and Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (MIAC) teams in the midst of spring break trips to Florida and Arizona, the 2019 softball season is in full swing.
The University of St. Thomas is ranked No. 4 in the nation in the latest NFCA Division III Top 25 Poll, released on Wednesday. Saint Benedict received seven votes in the most recent balloting.
Three MIAC pitchers - Bethel's Megan Thurow (Burnsville, Minn. | Minnehaha Academy), Hamline's Kira Krueger (Mayville, Wis.), and St. Thomas' Megan Baniecke (Forest Lake, Minn.) - are among the 42 NCAA Division III pitchers with unblemished earned run averages this season.
Augsburg is averaging 1.50 home runs per game this season, third-best in NCAA Division III. Bethel has a team home run average of 1.25, good for fifth-best in D-III. The Auggies also rank third in scoring (12.75 per game), fifth in slugging percentage (.660) and fourth in stolen bases (4.25 per game).
Augsburg pitcher Samantha Anderson (Coon Rapids, Minn.) ranks fifth in NCAA Division III in runs batted in per game with an average of 2.75 on the season.
Bethel has the second-highest team batting average in the country at .461 this season. Carleton is not far behind at third in Division III with a team average of .459. The Royals lead the country in slugging percentage at .739.
Bethel shortstop Jamie Axelberg (Monticello, Minn.) is hitting .786 this spring - the seventh-best batting average in Division III - with a slugging percentage of 1.286 - tied for sixth-highest in the Division.
Concordia pitcher Megan Gavin (Cold Springs, Minn. | ROCORI) ranks seventh in Division III with 60 strikeouts this season.
Macalester's Julia Carpenter (Stevensville, Mich. | Lakeshore) and St. Thomas' Kristin McGonigal (Omaha, Neb.) are tied for sixth in the nation with an average of 1.33 stolen bases per game this season.
Saint Benedict outfielder Kate Deming (Bloomington, Minn. | Jefferson) has 23 hits on the year, tied for 10th-most in D-III. Five of those hits have been triples, the second-highest total in all of Division III.
St. Olaf pitcher Julie Graf (Sammamish, Wash. | Eastlake) has the third-best strikeouts per seven innings average in the nation this season at 14.1. Graf has 68 strikeouts on the year, fourth-most in Division III. Her 16-strikeout performance against Martin Luther on February 23 is tied for the second-highest single-game total in D-III this season.
St. Thomas infielders Elise Barnes (South St. Paul, Minn.) and Chase Shortly (Forest Lake, Minn.) each have seven doubles on the year, tied for eighth-most in D-III.
AROUND THE MIAC
Augsburg senior Samantha Anderson (Coon Rapids, Minn.) got the job done in the circle and the batter's box last weekend, striking out 21 batters in 13 innings of work over three games as a pitcher while collecting hits in eight of her 12 at-bats in four games as a hitter. Anderson batted in 11 runs to help the Auggies start the year 3-1.
Bethel jumped out to a 3-1 start to the year thanks in large part to the play of sophomore infielder Jamie Axelberg (Monticello, Minn.), who has come away with hits in 11 of her 14 at-bats this season. The Royals' shortstop belted home runs in back-to-back wins against Wis.-Stevens Point and St. Scholastica, finishing a triple shy of the cycle against the Saints on March 4.
After nearly a full month off, undefeated Carleton will return to the field on March 20 for a series of games in Clermont, Fla. Leftfielder Trina Eichel (Alameda, Calif.) was the Knights' hero their last time out, sending a 1-0 pitch over the wall for a walkoff home run in a 7-6 victory against Bethany Lutheran on February 23. Eichel is batting .462 with six hits and five RBI in her first season in Northfield.
Concordia sophomore Megan Gavin (Cold Spring, Minn. | ROCORI) went 6-1 and was responsible for all six Concordia wins in Florida, with four of those victories coming in the last week. The six total wins are the most for a Cobber team on a spring break trip since 1999 and four more than Gavin had all of last season. Gavin pitched in nine of the team's 10 games and never allowed more than two earned runs in an outing. She also allowed fewer than two runs in six of her nine appearances, striking out 60 batters in 45 innings on the trip.
Gustavus pitcher Aly Freeman (Omaha, Neb. | Marian) leads the team with a .474 batting average this season, going 9-for-19 in her first six games of the year. Freeman has hit her way on base multiple times in three games this season, including a pair of doubles in both the Gusties' victories over Carroll and Wis.-River Falls.
Hamline outfielder Delaney Kohler (New Brighton, Minn.) helped the Pipers improve to 4-0 on the season with a three-hit day against Wis.-Stevens Point on March 4. The senior went 3-for-6 with two walks, a double, and a run batted in against the Pointers.
Macalester junior Julia Carpenter (Stevensville, Mich. | Lakeshore) totaled six hits and scored six runs in the Scots' season-opening sweep of Mount Mary in February. She has a hit in five of the team's six games this season and the Scots are 3-0 this year in Carpenter's multi-hit games.
Saint Benedict pitcher Ally Hjort (Woodbury, Minn.) picked up four wins in five appearances last week with three complete games along the way. Hjort allowed a single earned run and struck out five batters to help CSB beat St. John Fisher - which beat the Bennies in extra innings last year - 4-3. She had nine strikeouts in a 5-1 win against WPI and finished the week with 28 strikeouts and a 0.82 ERA. Hjort is 5-0 this season with a 1.37 ERA.
St. Catherine senior outfielder Anna Hinderaker (Rosemount, Minn.) reached base safely in each of the Wildcats' first seven games of the season, collecting at least one hit in six straight to start the year. Hinderaker is batting a team-best .462 with 12 hits and four runs batted in this season.
Saint Mary's pitcher Amber Trendle (Chicago, Ill. | De La Salle) enjoyed a career day in a 1-0 win against Rose-Hulman on February 25, striking out a career-high eight batters en route to her second collegiate shutout. Trendle tossed a complete-game two-hitter in the win.
St. Olaf pitcher Julie Graf (Sammamish, Wash. | Eastlake) moved into fourth-place all-time on the MIAC's list of career strikeout leaders, surpassing St. Catherine's Krista Flugstad (2015-18) and St. Thomas' Marta Radcliffe (2007-10). Graf has 600 career strikeouts with 68 already this season. Janet Nagle currently has more strikeouts than any MIAC pitcher in history with 696 at St. Thomas from 2003-06.
St. Thomas pitcher Kierstin Anderson-Glass (Inver Grove Heights, Minn. | Visitation) has been dynamic after two years on the sidelines, tossing two complete games with 12 strikeouts and just two earned runs allowed in three appearances this season. The junior retired 12 of the last 14 batters she faced her last time out in a 2-1 victory over Dubuque on March 3. Selected MIAC Pitcher and Rookie of the Year in 2016, Anderson-Glass missed the last two seasons for health-related reasons, going 1,003 days between appearances.