‘A whole different team’
The Loras College softball team kicked off their season this past weekend in Rochester, Minnesota at the Rochester Dome. The team had two games Saturday, Feb. 23 at 4 p.m. against St. Catherine University and 8 p.m. against University of Wisconsin Stout. Loras ended the day 0-2 losing to St. Catherine 2-11 and UW-Stout 4-7. To see the reviews to these games, be sure to check duhawks.com.
The team was supposed to return to campus that Saturday night, however found themselves stuck in Minnesota until Monday evening. The weather was a tragedy, forcing the major highway to close down.
The head coach Ashley Winter returns to Loras for her tenth season to be the hub of the Duhawk softball team. Winter led the Duhawks to the conference tournament semifinals in 2017 for the first time since 2011.
Returner senior third-baseman Ashley Lentine is taking her fourth and final campaign as a Duhawk after being selected as a second team all-conference performer back in 2017. Although the Chicago native hit a batting average of .349, she led Loras with a .587 slugging percentage while starting in all 38 games. Lentine looks to improve those hitting numbers and return to the all-conference team at the end of the 2019 season.
Junior pitcher Emily Reilly will be wearing purple & gold for the third year in a row for the Duhawk rotation. Reilly pitched in 111 innings over 20 games finishing the season with a 2.51 ERA and a 1.37 WHIP. In addition, Reilly held opponents to a .290 batting average while throwing 13 complete games.
The team was also picked to finish seventh in the American Rivers Conference due to their record last year and compared to the other teams in the conference. The team with the most wins last year, which was Luther College, found themselves at the top of the 2019 preseason coaches poll. The Duhawks plan to start their conference play Saturday, Mar. 30 in Lincoln, Nebraska at Nebraska Wesleyan University before they return to Faber-Clark in Dubuque for a Tuesday matchup with the preseason league favorite, Luther College.
As the season progresses, acknowledging where the team was in the previous season will set them up for this season. Some individuals the team graduated last year was short stop Bria Lenten who was a mainstay for the Duhawks in the infield. Lenten started in over 150 games and concluded her season with a batting average of .379 along with seven doubles and four home runs, earning an honorable mention by the league.
Another key player loss for the Duhawks would be outfielder Hannah Towns who started all 38 games for Loras in the outfield. Towns hit a career best .364 with 22 RBIs on her way to being selected as a Second Team All-Conference selection as a Junior.
The Duhawks next competition days will be at the Augsburg Dome in Minneapolis, Minnesota against Crown College on Mar. 8 at 1:30 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. They will also play Northland College that Saturday, Mar. 9 and University of Wisconsin La Crosse on Sunday, Mar. 10.