College softball: Sunny days ahead for local teams

As the lone Californian on the roster, Minnesota Duluth freshman pitcher Breanna Swint has always worn Under Armour beneath her uniform in her first spring with the Bulldogs, while her teammates are sweating.

As the lone Californian on the roster, Minnesota Duluth freshman pitcher Breanna Swint has always worn Under Armour beneath her uniform in her first spring with the Bulldogs, while her teammates are sweating.

"Breanna didn't really like the cold too much, but she has been doing really well for us, so she has adapted well," UMD outfielder Hannah Schmoll said. "She hasn't complained."

Just deal with it. That's the motto for college softball teams in the Twin Ports this spring. UMD, St. Scholastica and Wisconsin-Superior look forward to mostly sunny skies and warmer weather for their respective double-elimination conference tournaments this week, especially after seeing snow on Monday.

Fourth-seeded UMD (34-18) opens against fifth-seeded St. Cloud State (31-21) in the NSIC opener at noon today in Sioux Falls, S.D.

Fourth-seeded UWS (16-15) opens UMAC play against fifth-seeded Bethany Lutheran (14-22) at 10 a.m. today at Kenwood Field in Duluth, with the winner facing top-seeded St. Scholastica (21-15) at 2 p.m.


"The weather has obviously presented some challenges, but we are excited about the great weather for the conference tournament this week," St. Scholastica coach Rilee Dawson said. "We've steadily improved from the start of the season, which has been our focus. We're excited and prepared."

Dawson said the Saints had to cancel two nonconference doubleheaders due to poor weather, while her protégé, UMD coach Jen Walter, said the Bulldogs' first weekend back from their spring trips was their best weekend.

"Then every other week after that we had to change something," Walter said.

It was a juggling act moving games to fit the weather pattern.

The coaches joked they've seen worse. They've been around the Northland long enough to know that.

"It's nothing new, but I feel for the players," Walter said. "I'm tired, and if I'm tired, how do they feel? They're taking 12 and 16 credits, going to class and doing projects. For the younger players, going through this is hard. I'm not making excuses. It's the reality, but you don't know what it's like until you go through that the first time."

Dawson said in 2013 the Saints started doubleheaders at 11 p.m., with the second game starting at 1 a.m., just to get them in.

Walter is focusing on the positives as her team should feel rejuvenated this week.


"If it's dry and 50 in Sioux Falls, that would be balmy for us," she said. "It hasn't really been that bad. Of our scheduled 16 home games, we've played 14 of them in Duluth. That's pretty darn good. You just have to be resilient."

• UMD junior Natalie Wright headlines the Bulldogs' NSIC selections, announced Wednesday.

Wright, a second baseman from Wyoming, Minn., earned first team and gold glove honors. She leads the Bulldogs in batting average (.373), hits (66), doubles (18), triples (five), on-base percentage (.422), total bases (103) and slugging percentage.

Schmoll, a junior from Grand Rapids, earned second team and gold glove honors. She is hitting .331 with 35 stolen bases, just five off the school record she set last year, while adding a team-high 44 runs.

Becky Smith, a junior shortstop from Long Lake, Minn., also earned second-team honors. She leads the Bulldogs in RBIs (41) and is second in batting average (.349), hits (58), home runs (six) and on-base percentage (.409).

Today's Games

NSIC Tournament

At Sioux Falls, S.D.


• UMD (34-18) vs. St. Cloud State (31-21), noon

UMAC Tournament

At Kenwood Field, Duluth

• UWS (16-15) vs. Bethany Lutheran (14-22), 10 a.m.

• CSS (21-15) vs. UWS/Bethany winner, 2 p.m.

Jon Nowacki joined the News Tribune in August 1998 as a sports reporter. He grew up in Stephen, Minnesota, in the northwest corner of the state, where he was actively involved in school and sports and was a proud member of the Tigers’ 1992 state championship nine-man football team.

After graduating in 1993, Nowacki majored in print journalism at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, serving as editor of the college paper, “The Aquin,” and graduating with honors in December 1997. He worked with the Associated Press during the “tobacco trial” of 1998, leading to the industry’s historic $206 billion settlement, before moving to Duluth.

Nowacki started as a prep reporter for the News Tribune before moving onto the college ranks, with an emphasis on Minnesota Duluth football, including coverage of the Bulldogs’ NCAA Division II championships in 2008 and 2010.

Nowacki continues to focus on college sports while filling in as a backup on preps, especially at tournament time. He covers the Duluth Huskies baseball team and auto racing in the summer. When time allows, he also writes an offbeat and lighthearted food column entitled “The Taco Stand,” a reference to the “Taco Jon” nickname given to him by his older brother when he was a teenager that stuck with him through college. He has a teenage daughter, Emma.

Nowacki can be reached at or (218) 380-7027. Follow him on Twitter @TacoJon1.
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