Lawrence University softball star Cathy Kaye takes that old expression about running through a wall for her team pretty seriously. With Lawrence’s season hanging in the balance last weekend, Kaye went crashing into the fence at Ripon College to help her Vikings.
Faced with having to win all four league games this past Saturday and Sunday to earn a spot in the Midwest Conference Tournament, the Vikings swept Carroll University and Ripon College. It was Kaye’s catch against the Red Hawks that epitomized Lawrence’s go-for-broke attitude.
“Cathy made one of the best catches I’ve seen her make during her career, and she nearly got whiplash from crashing into the fence,” Lawrence coach Kim Tatro said. “She came in smiling with blood on her teeth.”
Lawrence earned its first MWC Tournament berth since 2006 by finishing second in the North Division. St. Norbert College won the North, and Lake Forest College won the South Division with Cornell College earning the other tournament berth.
The Vikings enter the tournament with a 19-13 record and take on Lake Forest (17-16) in the opening game at 10 a.m. on Friday at Mel Nicks Field in De Pere. Host school St. Norbert (19-13) takes on Cornell (18-14) in the other opening game. The double-elimination tournament concludes Saturday with the winner receiving an automatic berth in the NCAA Division III Tournament.
“It’s been a few years (since Lawrence played in the tournament), and we’ve been pretty close on different occasions. To actually accomplish it is a pretty good feeling,” Tatro said.
“It’s kind of like a fresh start in some ways. We’re getting some clutch hits. We’re getting good defense and pitching well enough to win.”
The Vikings went into last weekend’s must-win games without feeling the pressure. After all, no one really expected Lawrence to pull off a four-game sweep, did they?
“It’s one of those things that we didn’t talk about,” Tatro said. “Everyone knew for sure, the team looks at the standings and the web so I’m sure they were well aware of the task at hand. Our goal was to play relaxed and play loose. We seem to play much better when we’re in that mode. I think if you look at it as a hill you have to climb, it adds stress to your life.”
The Vikings got big performances from their three seniors, Kaye, pitcher Shannon Murray and catcher Gaelen Lombard-Knapp. In the four must-win games, Murray hit .583 with four runs batted in, and she went 2-0 with two saves and posted a 0.74 earned run average.
“You can’t say enough about Shannon with her pitching, hitting and coming in for saves. I think it’s really kind of magical for the seniors,” said Tatro, adding she’s had big contributions from the first-year players as well.
The Vikings are starting four freshmen, third baseman Anna Wawiorka (.320 batting average), designated player Taylor Dodson (.305), outfielder Tierney Duffy (.277) and outfielder Savanna Marsicek (.239).
‘”We had freshmen stepping up all over the place, and our seniors couldn’t have been better at Ripon,” Tatro said.
This past weekend is a microcosm of the Lawrence season. The Vikings seem to get knocked down time and again and always rise to meet the next challenge.
“I’ve said it before. they are very resilient, and they proved that this past weekend,” Tatro said. “It doesn’t get any better than that,” Tatro said.
“I give credit to all 19 players on the roster for their mentality and their contributions. I think we have to stick to the same approach. To get tight now would be foolish. It’s about being loose and relaxed, and we have a little bit of extra confidence.”
Golfers go for gold
The Lawrence golf team also is playing in the league championships, which start Thursday at Aldeen Golf Club in Rockford, Ill.
Lawrence, which finished seventh in the team standings in 2012, has two of the league’s top players in freshmen Rudi Pino and sophomore Anton Olsson.
Pino, who carded a career-low 68 this season, leads the league with a stroke average of 75.3 and Olsson isn’t far behind at 77.0. Both players will have a shot at the title but will have to contend with the likes of Carroll’s Cody Neu, Monmouth’s Britt Bothast and St. Norbert’s Joe Martin and Nic Vrubley.
The 54-hole tournament finishes up on Saturday.
Editor’s Note: Inside LU Athletics is a notes package written by Lawrence University Director of Athletic Media Relations Joe Vanden Acker. It will feature teams and individual players, recap weekly awards or highlights and take a look at what’s ahead for the Vikings.