Five games into the 2019-20 season, Northwest softball is optimistic and eager to play at a high level this year.
Despite a 2-3 start, including a pair of back-to-back losses against Minnesota State (4-1) and Concordia-St. Paul (2-3) at the Minnesota State D-II Softball Classic, coach Ryan Anderson believes this year’s team has the opportunity to do something special.
“We think we’re a regional team,” Anderson said. “We have the hitting to do it. We have the pitching if we can stay healthy. So it’s one of those things where, realistically, we want to go to regionals.”
Fielding a regional-level team a year removed from a season that saw an 11-28 record, including 6-20 in the MIAA and 1-15 on the road, will be no easy task. However, this year’s team takes the field with a few more factors working in their favor, namely health and experience, Anderson said.
“Realistically, we’re a little bit more healthy. Last year we got hit with injuries, and mentally, we didn’t know how to recover,” Anderson said. “We had a lot of holes, and going into right now, we’re somewhat healthy, and hopefully that’s what will keep us on track.”
Injuries, of course, played a part in the result of last year’s season, with only four players who started in all 39 games, making continuity difficult to maintain. However, the clear cut advantage of this team, Anderson said, is its returning players.
“We just have a ton of experience,” Anderson said. “Around, really, the infield and the outfield we have a lot of upperclassmen that have played for three years or for two years. You can’t duplicate that kind of stuff. They’re bringing in 300 or 400 experienced at-bats and when other teams have a freshman playing, it shows.”
And, with five seniors, three juniors and eight sophomores on the roster, experience and maturity will understandably be an asset to this year’s team. But, when coming off a season as poor as last year’s, which saw 19 losses by three or more runs and eight games in which they gave up 10 or more runs, game experience can be discredited by many. Anderson differs from any sort of ideology in that regard.
“A lot of us were left with a bad taste from last year. We had three pitchers get hurt and it showed,” Anderson said. “Hopefully, we can get that out of our head and realize we’re the same team but we’re not the same team; we’re a new team. Mentally, we’re ready to move forward and start winning.”
Northwest will have an opportunity to get back on track with four games in two days Feb. 14-15 against Arkansas Tech, Southeastern Oklahoma State, Southern Arkansas and Maryville in Bentonville, Arkansas, at the Alvy Early Classic.