WINONA LAKE, Ind. – In their final games of the season, Grace's softball team lost twice to Marian University at Miller Field 5-1 and 7-1.
The Lady Lancers (10-35; 0-16 MCC) hung with the leader of the Mid-Central College Conference in the opener, with the score 1-0 through five innings. However, the Lady Knights (38-4; 16-0 MCC) pulled away with two runs in the top of the sixth and seventh innings to put the game out of reach.
Melinda Creek finished her stellar senior season on the mound with seven strikeouts in seven innings. She gave up 10 hits and five runs in the complete-game loss.
In the second game, the Lady Lancers gave up two big innings -- a three-run third and a four-run sixth -- en route to their final loss of the season. Grace was only able to record three hits in the final game.
Marian finished the season on top of the MCC with an undefeated conference schedule.
The Lady Lancers say goodbye to seniors Creek, Virginia Myers, Victoria Busch, Rachel Braddock, Aleah Smith and Brianna Flanegan.
WESTVILLE, Ind. – Grace's softball team completed its nonconference schedule with a pair of losses at Purdue North Central.
The Lady Lancers (10-33) were unable to plate a run in either game, falling 0-4 and 0-9.
Both teams recorded five hits in the first game, but the Panthers were aided by two errors by Grace to score four runs. Samantha Fields led Grace at the plate in the first game, going 2 for 4. Melinda Creek threw a complete game, giving up two earned runs while striking out three.
In the second game, Grace was completely outclassed. The Lady Lancers were able to manage only one baserunner all game -- and that came from a walk by Rachel Braddock. Grace gave up 13 hits and two four-run innings to lose in five innings.
Only one set of games remains for the Lady Lancers. Grace will take on Marian University on Wednesday at Miller Field. The doubleheader is scheduled to start at 3 p.m.
WINONA LAKE, Ind. – For only the second time in the past decade, Grace's softball team has reached double-digit wins with a come-from-behind victory over St. Mary-of-the-Woods College.
The Lady Lancers (10-31) found themselves down 4-0 early in the second game of their doubleheader against the Pomeroys. But Grace used a four-run fifth inning to regain the momentum and scored two more in the bottom of the sixth to win the game 8-7. The win secures Grace's first 10-win season since 2005.
Grace scored twice in the third inning to cut St. Mary's lead in half. Virginia Myers and Jessica Anton came through with back-to-back two-out doubles to drive in the runs.
After the Pomeroys scored another run in the top of the fifth, Grace made their push in the bottom of the inning. Samantha Fields walked to lead off the inning, and then Rachel Braddock reached base via a throwing error to first. Fields's heads-up base running scored her all the way from first to bring Grace within two runs at 5-3.
With runners on the corners with two outs, Katie Clouse sent a 2-2 pitch sailing over the left field fence to put the Lady Lancers in front for the first time all game. Clouse's three-run home run was only her second home run of the season.
The Pomeroys would not go down without a fight, retaking the lead with four hits and two runs in the top of the sixth. Both runs came on two-out singles. But the Lady Lancers won the game when Jessica Anton singled to center in the bottom of the sixth to score Fields and Braddock.
Anton (2 for 4) and Clouse (1 for 3) each finished with three RBIs, and Fields scored three runs on 2 for 3 from the plate.
In the opening game, Grace struck first when Clouse singled in Anton. The Pomeroys responded, however, with a two-out RBI single in the third and a solo home run in the fourth to take a 2-1 lead.
Grace threatened in the fifth inning when Fields hit a double to center field to move Alaina Munson to third, but the Lady Lancers were unable to plate either runner.
The last three innings remained scoreless as Grace couldn't translate their hits into runs and lost 2-1. Grace outhit St. Mary-of-the-Woods 7-6. Fields and Anton each finished 2 for 3 from the plate.
Melinda Creek threw well in the loss, giving up six hits and two earned runs in seven innings. She struck out three batters.
The Lady Lancers return to action Monday at Purdue North-Central.
WINONA LAKE, Ind. – Grace's softball team had no answer for Huntington University on Tuesday, falling 6-0 and 3-0 at Miller Field.
The Lady Lancers (9-30; 0-14 MCC) could only muster three hits in two games against the Lady Foresters (14-16; 8-6 MCC).
After holding Huntington even through the first two innings of the opener, Grace hurt themselves by giving up four home runs by two different players. Freshmen Samantha Fields, Jessica Anton and Alaina Munson were the only Lady Lancers to record a hit in the first game.
Melinda Creek added to her conference-leading strikeout total with seven strikeouts in seven innings. She currently has 132 strikeouts on the season.
In the second game, Huntington was one error away from a perfect game as Molly Long threw a complete game on a mere 54 pitches. Virginia Myers did her best to keep the game close from the mound, yielding single runs in the third, fourth and fifth innings, but the women couldn't generate enough offense to mount a comeback.
The Lady Lancers will return to Miller Field on Wednesday for a doubleheader with St. Mary-of-the-Woods starting at 3 p.m.
MARION, Ind. – On the final day of the IWU Invitational, Grace College's softball team surpassed last year's win total with a 14-5 win over Calumet College of St. Joseph.
The Lady Lancers (9-28) overpowered the Crimson Wave (10-35) with 10 hits and run-ruled Calumet after five innings. Virginia Myers was credited with the win on the mound, yielding six hits and one earned run.
Samantha Fields, Rachel Braddock and Brianna Flanegan all finished 2 for 3 from the plate. Alaina Munson (2 for 2) also recorded a pair of hits.
In the first game of the day, Grace fell to Trinity International 9-4. Myers led Grace at the plate with two hits and one run batted in. Heidi Orr had an RBI triple against the Lady Trojans (7-26).
Already one game above last season, the Lady Lancers still have at least seven games remaining in their season. They will play again at home against Huntington University on Tuesday at 3 p.m.
MARION, Ind. – In the opening game of the IWU Invitational, Grace's softball team held off Trinity Christian in the final inning to win 4-3.
The Lady Lancers (8-26) gave up 11 hits to the Lady Trolls yet still held their opponent scoreless through the first six innings. Grace scored a pair of runs in both the top of the fifth and seventh innings to give themselves the cushion they needed to withstand Trinity's rally.
Grace was led by Rachel Braddock at the plate, who knocked in three of the four runs. Samantha Fields scored twice after finishing 2 for 4, and Alaina Munson went 2 for 3 with a run scored.
FORT WAYNE, Ind. – Playing one of their toughest non-conference games of the season, Grace's softball team split a doubleheader with Indiana Tech on the strength of the Lady Lancers' seniors.
A two-run home run by senior Brianna Flanegan was all that the Lady Lancers (7-26) needed to knock off the Lady Warriors (24-15) in a 2-1 victory in the first game.
Senior Melinda Creek threw a brilliant game for Grace, giving up four hits and zero walks in a complete game victory. She yielded one run while striking out six batters.
The Lady Lancers only recorded five hits in the game, including a 2 for 4 performance by senior Virginia Myers. Grace's seniors had all five hits.
Indiana Tech, who has defeated three Mid-Central College Conference teams already this year including MCC-leader Marian University (28-4), rebounded to win the second game 6-1.
Each team had six hits in the second game, but the Warriors capitalized on three errors by the Lady Lancers to score their runs. The Lady Lancers scored their sole run of the game in the fifth inning to pull Grace within one. But Indiana Tech responded with four runs in the bottom of the fifth to seal the win.
Samantha Fields (2 for 4) and Katie Clouse (2 for 3) led the Lady Lancers at the plate.
The Lady Lancers return to action Friday for a doubleheader in the Indiana Wesleyan Tournament. Grace will take on Trinity Christian at 1 p.m. and will play Saint Francis at 5 p.m.
UPLAND, Ind. – The Grace College softball team's comeback attempt ended with the bases loaded against Taylor University.
After knocking off the Lady Trojans (8-16; 2-6 MCC) in Grace's third game of the season, the Lady Lancers (6-25; 0-12 MCC) lost early advantages in both games of the doubleheader on Tuesday.
Grace held a 3-0 lead over Taylor through an inning and a half of the first game, but Taylor responded with five unanswered runs to regain control. In Grace's final inning, the Lady Lancers started off exactly how a rally should not start -- with two straight outs.
But Genevieve Benson got on base with the help of an error, and Grace took advantage. Brianna Flanegan, Jessica Anton and Virginia Myers (who was pinch-hitting) hit three straight singles to score Benson with all three runners still on base. However, the Lady Lancers grounded out in their next at-bat, ending their rally one run short to fall 5-4.
Samantha Fields paced Grace offensively, going 2 for 4 with a home run, two runs scored and two RBIs. Brianna Flanegan finished 2 for 3 at the plate. Melinda Creek pitched a complete game for the Lady Lancers, striking out seven batters in six innings with only two earned runs credited to her account.
In the second game, Grace once again took an early lead (2-0), but they could not capitalize on their baserunners to keep up with Taylor and lost 10-2. The Lady Lancers recorded eight hits, but they left 10 runners on base. Grace also had three errors in the game.
Fields, Anton and Rachel Braddock each went 2 for 3 in the game.
The Lady Lancers return to action on Thursday at Indiana Tech for a doubleheader. The games are scheduled to start at 3 p.m.
WINONA LAKE, Ind. – Grace's softball team fell short in both of their games against Indiana Wesleyan on Saturday. The Lady Lancers (6-12; 0-10 MCC) lost 13-4 in the first game and dropped a heartbreaking 3-1 loss in the second game.
In the second game, Grace's Brianna Flanegan had an RBI in the first inning to score Rachel Braddock and give the Lady Lancers a 1-0 lead. Virginia Myers pitched a solid game for Grace and held the Lady Wildcats (19-10; 7-1 MCC) scoreless until the top of the sixth inning.
But Indiana Wesleyan scored two runs in the top of the sixth and one run in the top of the seventh to earn the 3-1 victory. Grace had the winning run at-bat in the bottom of the seventh, but were plagued with a few unfortunate breaks down the stretch to fall just short.
Grace had five hits in the second game, led by Genevieve Benson who went 2 for 3. Braddock, Myers and Katie Clouse each had a hit as well.
The Lady Lancers didn't go down without a fight in the first game either. After falling behind 4-0 early in the game, Grace scored one in the bottom of the third and three more in the fourth to tie the game 4-4. The Lady Wildcats, however, finished strong and scored eight runs in the final three innings.
Alaina Munson went 2 for 2 in the game, and Grace had seven hits overall. Melinda Creek struck out six batters.
The Lady Wildcats are on a seven-game winning streak.
Grace honored six seniors before their doubleheader: Aleah Smith, Myers, Flanegan, Victoria Busch, Braddock and Creek.
Grace returns to action at Taylor on Tuesday. The doubleheader is scheduled to start at 3 p.m.
SPRING ARBOR, Mich. – Grace's softball team made improvements between games against Spring Arbor University, but they couldn't quite get over the hump, falling in both ends of a doubleheader on Tuesday.
Offensively, the Lady Lancers (6-21; 0-8 MCC) weren't able to generate anything in the opener. The Lady Cougars (13-13; 2-2 MCC) blanked Grace 6-0, allowing only three Grace hits. Melinda Creek, who had one of the three hits, pitched the first game. She struck out five and gave up nine hits in the loss.
The second game resulted in 11 hits for Grace but only a pair of runs in a 5-2 loss. Genevieve Benson finished the game 2 for 3 with an RBI, and Jessica Anton also knocked in a run after going 3 for 4.
The Lady Lancers return to action on Thursday at Miller Field for a doubleheader against Marian University. The games will start at 3 p.m. Each team will wear pink wristbands in conjunction with the rest of the MCC in order to raise awareness for breast cancer.
ADRIAN, Mich. – Grace’s softball team split their doubleheader against Siena Heights University on Thursday. The Lady Lancers (6-19) lost in the first game 4-0 and won the second game 7-6.
In the second game, Grace tallied three runs in the top of the first, then gave up four runs in the bottom of the first to fall behind by one. The Lady Lancers scored two runs in the second and another one in the third to take a 6-4 lead. Siena, however, would not go away and scored two runs in the bottom of the third to tie the game.
The game remained tied until the 10th inning when Genevieve Benson hit an RBI triple to score the game-winning run.
"I was really proud that we kept ourselves in the game and scored the winning run in the tenth," said head coach Heather Johnson. "Anytime you can get a win, it gives you confidence."
Benson went 5 for 6 from the plate and tallied three RBIs. Jessica Anton went 3 for 6.
Melinda Creek relieved Virginia Myers after three innings and was credited with the win, striking out six batters on the day.
In the first game, the Lady Saints (11-14) scored two runs in the first inning and two in the third to take the 4-0 victory. Benson and Alaina Munson each had a hit. Creek had six strikeouts in game one.
The Lady Lancers have now won three of their last five games.
Grace returns to action at Spring Arbor on April 6 for a 3 p.m. start.
WINONA LAKE, Ind. — Grace's softball team pushed Goshen College to the limits on Tuesday but fell in a pair of low-scoring games 1-3 and 2-4.
On a day when Grace Athletics honored the late softball coach and athletic director Phil Dick, the Lady Lancers (5-18; 0-6 MCC) played near-perfect softball in the opening game before the Lady Maple Leafs (11-9; 2-0 MCC) pulled away in the 10th inning.
Senior pitcher Melinda Creek threw an impressive game in the opener. Through six innings, Creek had a one-hitter going. Goshen was able to muster four hits through the next three innings, but Grace's defense stiffened to keep the game tied at one.
In extra innings, the Lady Lancers put runners on base but were unable to plate the winning run. In the 10th inning, Goshen took advantage of the international tie-breaker rule to score two runs, which Grace could not match.
Creek pitched all 10 innings, giving up seven hits and zero walks. She struck out nine batters and gave up two earned runs. Samantha Fields starred for Grace at the plate, going 3 for 4.
In the second game, Grace's bats started off hot but cooled off quickly. Goshen led off the game with two runs, aided by a Lady Lancer error. Grace, however, was quick to respond.
Fields took the first pitch from Goshen in the bottom of the first and sent a blast over the left-field fence to put Grace on the board. Genevieve Benson scored the tying run in the first inning when Brianna Flanegan hit an RBI double.
However, the Lady Lancers were only able to eek out a single hit the rest of the game after their three-hit first inning. Goshen added a run in the second and the seventh innings to give them another two-run win.
Senior pitcher Virginia Myers took the loss on the mound, giving up five hits and two earned runs. She struck out five batters.
The Lady Lancers return to action on Thursday when they travel to face Siena Heights in a doubleheader.
WINONA LAKE, Ind. — Grace's softball team broke a seven-game losing streak with an offensive outburst to sweep Rochester College 9-2 and 5-4.
In the first game, the Lady Lancers (5-16) were tied 1-1 through the first four and a half innings before scoring twice in the bottom of the fifth to take the lead. After Rochester drew within one in the top of the sixth, Grace responded with a six-run explosion to run away with a 9-2 victory.
Alaina Munson was a perfect 3 for 3 from the plate with three RBIs, and Genevieve Benson also connected for three hits in the first game. Nine different players recorded a hit for the Lady Lancers.
The nine runs that Grace scored in the first game were one more than they scored during their previous seven games combined.
Melinda Creek got complete-game win, allowing only eight hits and striking out six.
In the second game, Katie Clouse hit a go-ahead solo home run in the bottom of the sixth to complete Grace's sweep with a 5-4 win. Clouse's homer culminated Grace's rally from an early 4-1 deficit.
Creek came into the game in relief and was credited with the win, allowing one hit in four innings. She struck out four more batters to finish with 10 strikeouts on the day.
Samantha Fields completed a strong day at the top of the order with a 2 for 4 performance with a double and a run scored. She also added two more runs in the first game. Britny Adams hit a two-out, two-run single in the bottom of the third to start Grace's comeback.
The Lady Lancers return to next Tuesday at home against Goshen College. Before the game, there will be a ceremony to honor the late Phil Dick, a longtime softball coach and athletic director at Grace. The ceremony will start at 2:30 p.m.
FORT WAYNE, Ind. — In Grace's doubleheader on Friday, Saint Francis defeated the Lady Lancers (3-16; 0-4 MCC) 4-1 and 12-3.
In the first game, Brianna Flanegan got Grace on the board first with a homerun in the top of the second inning. The Lady Lancers, who are still searching for their first conference win, clung to their 1-0 lead until the bottom of the fourth when the Lady Cougars (6-8; 2-0 MCC) hit a two-run homerun and an RBI double to take a 3-1 lead. Saint Francis added an insurance run in the sixth inning to defeat Grace 4-1.
Melinda Creek pitched a complete game and totaled 12 strikeouts. Flanegan went 2 for 2, Creek went 2 for 3 and Samantha Fields went 2 for 4.
In the second game, the Lady Cougars built an early 4-1 lead over Grace in the first two innings, then added seven runs in the third to put the contest out of reach.
Grace scored three runs in the second game, one in the second inning and two in the fifth. They had two hits in the second inning, three hits in the third and capitalized off of a Saint Francis error in each inning. Stephanie Jevert hit a triple in the fifth inning to score both Fields and Munson and earn two RBIs on the day.
Fields was 2 for 3 in the second game, while Jevert, Flanegan, Smith, Myers and Munson each had a hit. Myers also had an RBI.
The Lady Lancers play Rochester College on Saturday morning in their home opener at Miller Field. The doubleheader is scheduled to start at 11 a.m.
MANCHESTER, Ind. — Grace's softball team lost their first game 6-1 and their second game 7-2 in their doubleheader against Manchester College on Wednesday.
The Lady Lancers (3-14; 0-2 MCC) gave up six runs in the first two innings of their opening game and couldn't recover. The Lady Spartans (4-4) had 10 hits to Grace's six.
Rachel Braddock went 2 for 3 to lead Grace, and Alaina Munson, Jessica Anton, Brianna Flanegan and Virginia Myers each had a hit. Munson had an RBI in the fifth inning for Grace's only run.
On the mound for Grace, Myers had seven strikeouts in 27 at-bats.
Grace got behind early again in the second game, trailing 5-0 entering the fourth inning. The Lady Lancers picked up a run in the top of the fourth and fifth innings before Manchester scored two more in the bottom of the fifth.
Munson, Anton, Braddock, Genevieve Benson and Melinda Creek each had a hit in the contest. Both Munson and Creek had an RBI.
Creek recorded six strikeouts in a complete game performance for the Lady Lancers.
Braddock had Grace's best hitting performance, going 3 for 5 on the day.
The Lady Lancers will continue conference play on Thursday when they travel to Saint Francis for their doubleheader at 3 p.m.
MISHAWAKA, Ind. — Grace's softball team played competitive but lost both of their games to No. 4 Bethel on Tuesday. The Lady Lancers (3-12; 0-2 MCC) lost the first game 7-1 and the second game 5-1 to Bethel, who is on a 12-game winning streak.
Alaina Munson had an RBI double in the sixth inning of the opening game to score Rachel Braddock for Grace's only run. The Lady Pilots (16-1-1) had nine hits off Grace's Virginia Myers. Myers had three walks and one strikeout in a complete game effort.
The game, according to head coach Heather Johnson, was much closer than the scoreboard appeared. "If you take away a few miscues, then it's a two-run game. We'll improve as the year goes on," Johnson said.
The Lady Lancers rebounded with a solid performance in the second game, especially from the plate, tying Bethel with 11 hits. Samantha Fields had an RBI single to score Rachel Braddock to get Grace on the board in the sixth inning. In the top of the seventh inning, Grace had bases loaded but couldn't manage to get anyone across the plate.
Melinda Creek had four strikeouts and gave up 11 hits. Fields finished a perfect 4 for 4 to lead Grace at the plate, and Brianna Flanegan and Creek went 2 for 3. Braddock, Katie Clouse and Jessica Anton each had a single.
"I'm very pleased with our performance today," said head coach Heather Johnson. "The girls took a great step forward. We played very well against a top team in the nation."
Both Virginia Myers and Melinda Creek pitched complete games.
Grace is back in action at Manchester College on Wednesday at 3 p.m.
HATTIESBURG, Miss. — Grace's softball team struggled in its first doubleheader on their spring break trip to Mississippi, falling to the host William Carey University in two games.
In the first game of the William Carey Invitational, the Lady Lancers (2-6) started off strong before losing 9-2 to the host. Both teams were scoreless through the first three innings before William Carey broke out with a four-run fourth and a five-run fifth inning to grab a 9-0 lead.
In the fifth inning, Grace made their comeback attempt as Alaina Munson and Genevieve Benson both got hits to plate runs. Unfortunately that was all Grace could muster.
In the second game, William Carey held Grace to a single run while accumulating nine hits in a 10-1 victory. Jessica Anton hit an RBI double for the Lady Lancers with Munson scoring the only Grace run.
The Lady Lancers continue the William Carey Invitational on Friday. At 10 a.m., Grace will take on William Woods, and at 5 p.m., the Lady Lancers square off against Mobile (Alab.).
NEW ALBANY, Ind. — Grace's softball team advanced to the championship game of the Grenadier Classic at IU-Southeast before falling to the host school, 7-0.
After winning their first two games of the tournament on Friday, the Lady Lancers (2-4) lost to IU-Southeast in the final game of the round robin tournament, 5-3. The Grenadiers jumped out to a 4-0 lead before Grace got on the board with a three-run sixth inning.
Freshman Samantha Fields brought in Rachel Braddock with a sacrifice fly, before Jessica Anton followed with a two-run double to bring Grace within one run. However, the Lady Lancers were not able to get another run across the plate as IU-Southeast added an insurance run late in the game.
“I thought we played well,” said Grace head coach Heather Johnson. “IU-Southeast handled us pretty easily on Thursday, but today we put ourselves in a position to win. I am extremely proud of our effort and our determination.”
Grace played IU-Southeast once again in the championship game by virtue of each team's performance in the round robin tournament. The Grenadiers proved too much to handle in the final game, running away for a 7-0 win.
Brianna Flanegan, Genevieve Benson and Fields all went 2-3 in final game to lead the Lady Lancers. Grace struggled to string hits together as they were shutout in the Championship.
“We just ran out of gas and couldn’t get any runs on the board,” Johnson said. “Overall, we had a great week. Every time we play, it strengthens us and allows us to learn and grow. It was good for us to be together on and off the field. It was very productive trip.”
Grace will return to action on March 18, as they head to Hattiesburg, Miss., for the William Carey Invitational.
NEW ALBANY, Ind. -- Grace College's first-year softball head coach Heather Johnson picked up her first wins as a Lady Lancer coach on Friday at the IU-Southeast Grenadier Classic.
The Lady Lancers (2-0) used a suicide squeeze to defeat Taylor University in the first game 3-1, and then dominated Bluefield College by a score of 8-0 in the second game.
"We played really well today as a team and really executed," Johnson said. "This was a great confidence builder for our team, and it was good to see what we do in practice pay off in the games."
Against Taylor, Grace scored the first run of the game in the fourth inning after a double by Jessica Anton scored Aleah Smith. Taylor answered with a run of their own to tie the game in the top of the sixth inning.
In the bottom of the sixth, Grace's Smith got a single and advanced to third on a groundout and an error. Anton then performed a suicide squeeze to score Smith for the winning run. Samantha Fields gave Grace an insurance run from an RBI single to score Katie Clouse. Fields finished the game 2-3.
In the second game, Melinda Creek handcuffed the Bluefield offense, giving up a mere three hits and striking out 12 batters in a five-inning complete game.
The Lady Lancers' offense, on the other hand, was hitting on all cylinders. Grace connected on three singles, three doubles, one triple and a home run against Bluefield.
Anton once again sparked Grace's bats, going 1-2 with 2 RBIs, including a solo home run. Brianna Flanegan (3-3, two doubles) and Smith (2-4, two runs scored) also performed well at the plate for the Lady Lancers.
"We battled throughout and came up with some big runs today," Johnson continued. "We definitely came ready to play. We'll hope to continue our momentum tomorrow."
The Lady Lancers will play IU-Southeast on Saturday at noon. They will then play either in the championship or consolation game later that day.
NEW ALBANY, Ind. -- Grace's softball team opened up their season against Indiana University-Southeast on Thursday. The Lady Lancers (0-2) dropped the first game of the doubleheader 5-2 and lost the second game 10-1.
In the first game, Grace tallied three hits including an RBI double by freshman Jessica Anton that scored both of Grace's runs. Virginia Myers pitched in six innings and had five strikeouts. Grace, however, racked up five errors that led to several long innings.
"For that being the first time outside and on a playing surface, we did well," said head coach Heather Johnson. "We looked shaky defensively, but we did some things well. Jessica Anton provided some strong offense for us."
Grace struggled from the mound in the second game, and IU-Southeast totaled 10 runs overall. Grace scored their only run in the third inning.
"Their hitters dominated in the box, and we were unable to keep the ball out of the middle of the plate," Johnson continued. "But we didn't give up, and we were able to get on the board."
Grace will return to New Albany on Saturday for the IU-Southeast Tournament. They will play Taylor at 10 am and Bluefield State at 4 pm.
WINONA LAKE, Ind. – First-year head coach Heather Johnson ambitiously looks to lead Grace College’s softball team back to the top of the Mid-Central College Conference after the team finished 8-33 (2-15 MCC) last season.
Johnson, a 1994 graduate of Grace, returns to her alma mater after an outstanding athletic career gave her a spot in the inaugural class of the Lancer Hall of Fame in 2008. Her outstanding résumé includes the school record for single-season wins, ERA, strikeouts and innings pitched.
During her senior season, Johnson led Grace to its first trip to the NAIA national tournament and was named First Team NAIA All-American. As part of the program’s long-term vision, Johnson hopes to restore the national prominence and luster of Grace softball. She would like to see Grace win the MCC tournament within three years and be ranked nationally within four years.
The young team, which consists of five freshman and four sophomores, is going to lean on sophomore Genevieve Benson to provide leadership on and off the field. As a freshman, Benson hit .270 and provided stability up the middle at second base.
“She is a smooth player that makes the big plays and is consistent at the plate,” Johnson said. “She has worked hard to get stronger over the winter, so I anticipate her to do good things this year.”
Pitchers Melinda Creek and Virginia Myers are two of the six returning seniors this year. They will provide the pitching staff with much-needed leadership and consistency. Seniors Aleah Smith and Rachel Braddock will anchor the outfield defensively by utilizing their speed.
Although the Lady Lancers are young, they have a desire to work hard and improve. According to Johnson, the women are “coachable and willing to learn.” Grace is expecting freshmen Katie Clouse (a former Marion High School standout) and Alaina Munson (a Northwest High School, Canal Fulton, Ohio standout) to contribute right away. Clouse, a third baseman, will provide power in the lineup. Munson will add versatility to Grace by contributing at first base, in the outfield and on the pitching mound.
Team goals for the year include finishing the year at .500, finishing in the top half of the conference and qualifying for the MCC tournament. Academically, they want to maintain a team GPA of 3.2. The coaching staff has focused on the mental aspect of the game and hopes to instill a winning mentality in each player.
The Lady Lancers are getting comfortable with their roles and have made tremendous strides since the fall under their new head coach. Not only have they focused on strength and quickness this fall, but they have put a great emphasis on executing the fundamentals.
“We are not the same team as in the fall. We still need to focus on the little things and work hard for our success,” Johnson said, “but I look forward to seeing us put into practice what we have worked and improved on thus far.”
The Lady Lancers will open the 2010 season on Thursday at IU-Southeast. They will then head down to Hattiesburg, Miss., for the William Carey University tournament for their spring break trip from March 18-20.
Grace College is affiliated with the NAIA and NCCAA and is a member of the Mid-Central College Conference.