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Saints' softball coming down home stretch

The St. Scholastica Saints women's softball team season may have started out on a sour note, losing five of their first six games, but last week may be a better indicator of their true prowess.

The St. Scholastica Saints women's softball team season may have started out on a sour note, losing five of their first six games, but last week may be a better indicator of their true prowess.

"We're pretty young and inexperienced," said Jen Walter, the head coach of St. Scholastica's softball team. "We've come a long ways. I think we are starting to play some pretty good ball right now."

The team may have a 15-15 record overall, but they are leading the Upper Midwest Athletic Conference with a 6-0 record.

"We've played some pretty decent teams here since we got back from Tucson (where they went 5-4)," said Walter. "That's probably the bigger thing. With inexperience, you're always going to be inconsistent. A lot of it has to do with who you play."

After their trip to Arizona, the team played the likes of UW-River Falls and Gustavus Adolphus. Even though the Saints lost all four games against these teams, it may have made them stronger.

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UW-River Falls is currently ranked second in the Western Collegiate Athletic Conference and Gustavus Adolphus has a ranking of fourth in the Midwest, according to an NCAA Division III poll.

"I think that we've turned the corner," said Walter. "We have figured out who we are and what we need to do."

Leading the way in the batter's box this season are two seniors: outfielder Erica Kozaceck and pitcher and first baseman Rilee Dawson.

Kozaceck has a batting average of .483 with 27 RBIs and 5 home runs while Dawson is hitting at a .418 clip with 27 RBIs and 2 home runs.

"Each person on this team, from the starters to the last person off the bench, is capable of getting a hit to win the game or making that defensive play to steal a run from the other team," said Dawson, who was named to the UMAC All Conference team in 2006.

Leading the team on the pitcher's mound, along with Dawson, is Amy Jansen. Dawson has a record of 10-6 with an ERA of 2.00 and 126 strikeouts. Jansen has a 2.48 ERA, 53 strikeouts and an unlucky record of 3-8.

"We put a lot of expectations on them coming in, and I think they are responding pretty well with that," Walter said.

These players are leading a team that focuses on the group.

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"We have grown as a team and, I also believe, as individuals," said Kozaceck, a Third Team All American. "We have worked hard and learned to play together as a whole, not as nine individuals."

Going into the season, the team lost a lot of veteran talent. There are currently seven freshman on the team and four sophomores.

"Even with our juniors and seniors, they don't have a ton of playing time behind them," said Walter. "We just lost nine players off of last year's team."

According to Walter, there have been some surprises on the team. Sophomore catcher Gina Garramone, freshman third baseman Brenna Zavodnik and freshman outfielder Chelsey Weiss are also helping the Saints' cause.

Garramone is batting .329 with 20 RBIs, while Weiss is .273 with eight RBIs and Zavodnik has a .300 average.

Even with some strong veteran talent and some up-and-comers, Walter still sees a need for improvement.

"Or weakness is our inexperience; that goes right into our defense. We are not making plays the way we need to," Walter said. "Our strength (is the players') work ethic. They really want to get better and they don't make a lot of excuses. Not all teams are like that."

The team's final four regular games of the season will be against UMAC opponents Martin Luther, Bethany Lutheran and a doubleheader against CROWN.

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"Our team can be described in one word, perseverance," said Kozaceck. "We are looking forward to finishing the season strong with excitement and determination."

"Right now we are focusing on winning our conference championship which is a little over a week away," said Dawson. "If we keep playing like we have been lately, there's no doubt in my mind we can do that. We approach every game as 'it's not who we play, but how we play' that really matters."

Game by game results

March 4 Gustavus Adolphus L 3-1

March 4 Gustavus Adolphus L 14-6

March 7 Macalester College L 4-1

March 7 Macalester College W 9-0 (5)

March 11 Marian (Wis.) College L 8-7

March 11 Kenyon (Ohio) College L 6-5

March 12 Medaille (N.Y.) College W 5-0

March 12 Monmouth (Ill.) College W 7-2

March 13 University of New England (ME) W 11-1 (5)

March 13 Dickinson College W 2-1

March 15 Univ. of New England W 11-5

March 16 Edgewood (Wis.) L 6-4

March 24 UW-River Falls L 7-1

March 24 Gustavus Adolphus L 2-0

April 11 UW-River Falls L 7-2

April 11 UW-River Falls L 4-2

April 13 Northwestern (MN)* W 9-5

April 13 Northwestern (MN)* W 2-1

April 17 UW-Eau Claire L 7-1

April 17 UW-Eau Claire L 4-0

April 18 UW-Superior W 5-3

April 18 UMD L 13-8

April 20 Bethany Lutheran* W 8-0

April 20 Martin Luther * W 7-0

April 21 Presentation* W 12-1

April 21 Minnesota-Morris* W 11-6

April 23 Hamline Univ. L 1-0

April 23 Hamline Univ. W 1-0

April 26 UW-Stout W 10-2

April 26 UW-Stout L 4-3

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