The No. 17 Raider softball team extended its commanding start to the 2023 season, competing in Tucson, Arizona over spring break. The team compiled a 7-2 record over the course of the trip to improve to 23-2 on the season.
Highlights of the trip include a dramatic eight-inning walk-off victory over No. 2 (then No. 6) Indiana Wesleyan. The Raiders won 5-4 after Chloe Gallegos scored the winning run on a squeeze bunt from Kameryn Etherington. Etherington pitched all eight innings, giving up just three earned runs on seven hits and striking out three.
The Raiders won another one-run game against then-RV Olivet Nazarene University 3-2. The team utilized its short game again when Gwen Mikkelsen scored the go-ahead run on a Maddie Kvatek sacrifice bunt. Four Raider pitchers combined to give up just one earned run in seven innings. Ellie Jacobson got the win, throwing two scoreless innings.
In addition to wins against Indiana Wesleyan and Olivet Nazarene, the team beat Siena Heights, 12-0, York 8-0, Dickinson State 8-0, Valley City State 4-3, and Viterbo 9-1. The team fell to St. Francis 1-6 and Ottawa 5-6.
Individual offensive leaders for the week included Mikkelsen (14-24, .583), Emily Strasser (14-29, .482), and Ashtyn Billings (13-28, .464). Mikkelsen batted in 14 runs and scored 11. Strasser batted in 9, and Billings scored 8.
NW pitchers gave up just 17 earned runs in 53.2 innings. Ellie Jacobson did not allow an earned run in 10.2 innings, appearing in 4 contests. Etherington shined under pressure, earning two wins and a save in NW’s three wins decided by one run.
NW is ranked No. 17 in the most recent NAIA Coaches’ Poll, its first appearance in the top-25 since 2005. The team is set to resume its season on Friday, March 17 in Des Moines with a doubleheader against No. 14 Grand View University. The Raiders beat the Vikings 11-2 (5 innings) on February 11 at the American State Bank Sports Complex in Sioux Center.
Great Plains Athletic Conference play is set to begin March 22. The Raiders will travel, weather pending, to Mitchell, South Dakota to take on the Dakota Wesleyan Tigers. GPAC coaches picked NW to finish second in the conference behind Midland.