Softball looks to fine-tune going into final fall matchup

Kevin Horner

Despite batting .597, driving in 44 runs and only surrendering one run on three hits in last weekend’s doubleheader against Iowa Central Community College, the ISU softball team still meticulously searches out areas to improve.

The Cyclones defeated the Tritons 13-0 and 31-1 on Oct. 12, yet from both offensive and defensive perspectives, the team continues to discover elements that need strengthening as it prepares for its matchup against Kirkwood Community College on Oct. 18.

“You always find things to improve on, no doubt,” said ISU softball coach Stacy Gemeinhardt-Cesler. “I think that everyone on the team can look back and evaluate things that they would want to better.”

Due to the shorter length of the fall season, this week of practice has been the final opportunity for the Cyclones to make those specific evaluations. Following this weekend, the team will enter roughly a three-month period of dormancy before work can resume again in the spring.

One particular field of focus for this final week of fall ball is control from the pitcher’s mound. 

Although the ISU pitching staff only allowed three hits to the ICCC batters over the two game span, walks still plagued the Cyclones to the extent that it did not go unnoticed. The lone run that the Tritons brought home resulted from four walks in the same inning.

Although Iowa State shut out their opponents in the other 10 innings, if one takes away the two run-saving throws from senior shortstop Lexi Slater, the Tritons would have tripled their score.

Looking back to the Big Four Fall Tournament, the 25 walks surrendered by the ISU rotation proved to play a large role in their defensive downfall. However, the Cyclones have pinpointed these spots of vulnerability and continue to seek out improvement.

“We improved a lot from last weekend in terms of giving up runs,” said senior right-handed pitcher Paris Imholz. “But we definitely have a lot to work on in terms of walks.”

Despite a great response from the ISU pitchers after their walk problems, Imholz and the pitching staff have persisted in assessing areas that need improvement.

“We were able to come back from a lot of walks with strikeouts or ground balls,” Imholz said. “But I think we can eliminate [the walks] and just come off even better from the mound.”

On the other side of the ball, after picking apart the ICCC defense last weekend, the offense hopes to advance its precision and patience at the plate.

As senior second baseman Maddie Reese can attest to, the majority of the hits from the Cyclone batters last weekend were pulled through the hole between third and shortstop. In the matchup against ICCC, that tactic produced 44 runs but in the future, Iowa State is working on more spread-out hitting.

“I definitely would like to continue to work on waiting on pitches, maybe taking more balls to right field.” Reese said. “I think for the whole team, as well, it will be a big focus just waiting back on pitches and letting them get a little bit deeper in the zone before we start hitting them.”

Part of the offensive precision involves the working on base running, as well. Although it was not a central focus from the ICCC matchup due to the substantial score differential, Iowa State has not overlooked the tuning needed on the base paths.

“What we need to work on is reading the ball off the bat,” Slater said. “We have to know when to tag and when to come off [the bag], checking in when we’re sealing, checking in when it’s a bunt. We have the fundamentals down; we just have to put it into play.”

The Cyclones will have that opportunity to put their new developments into play against Kirkwood Community College on Oct. 18. Although the team, like ICCC, consists of only underclassmen, Gemeinhardt-Cesler knows not to underestimate the Eagles.

“I actually think that Kirkwood is pretty good,” Gemeinhardt-Cesler said. “I think that Joe Yegge [Kirkwood’s head coach] does a fantastic job there.”

Under Yegge, the Eagles finished the regular season last spring with an overall record of 49-6, going 22-2 in conference. Kirkwood entered postseason play as the fourth ranked team in the nation in NJCAA Division-II softball.

In addition, the team boasted a 1.49 earned run average, notching 14 shutouts last season.

The Cyclones will have their work cut out for them, but they still possess the confidence and ability to finish the fall season strong.

The doubleheader is set to begin at noon on Oct. 18 at Cyclone Sports Complex.