by Joe Vanden Acker
When Wisconsin sports fans think of a power combination in the lineup, they look no further than Milwaukee Brewers Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder and the expanse of Miller Park.
But Braun and Fielder have nothing on Lawrence University softball stars Alex Goodson ’10 and Carli Gurholt ’11 and their domain in the southeast corner of Whiting Field. Goodson and Gurholt are rewriting the Lawrence record books and putting up some prodigious power numbers.
“We’ve had some pretty gifted players, but no three-four combination that has put up this type of power numbers,” said Lawrence coach Kim Tatro, who hit Gurholt third and Goodson fourth in all but one game last season. “They are pretty much in a class by themselves in that regard.”
Goodson, a career .392 hitter, has earned first-team All-Midwest Conference honors in all three seasons with the Vikings. A .388 hitter for her career, Gurholt has been a first-team pick in each of her first two seasons and was the North Division Player of the Year in 2009. “Carli is really very, very patient,” Tatro said. “I think Alex by nature hits the ball hard, maybe harder than Carli. I think the reason Carli had more success with the power numbers was her discipline and trying to drive a good pitch. Alex is just so strong. She can hit a double on a bad at-bat. It’s a tribute to her fundamentals and her swing. The one thing they really have in common is that drive and desire, and they both have that slightest bit of perfectionism in them.”
Gurholt is coming off perhaps the finest season ever by a Lawrence hitter. She hit .419 with seven doubles, 12 home runs, 45 runs batted in and a .919 slugging percentage. Along the way, she set season records for total bases, home runs and RBIs. “It just so happened luck was on my side. I was confident and happy, and that goes into me playing well,” Gurholt said. “When I believe in myself and don’t second guess myself and let my skills do what they want, I can do amazing things.”
Gurholt, a native of Scandinavia, Wis., finished second in the nation in both home runs (0.41) and RBIs (1.55) per game last season. She is Lawrence’s career home run leader with 15 and has 65 RBIs. “A number of Carli’s home runs were three-run shots,” Tatro said. “Toward the end of the season it became kind of a joke — two people need to get on so Carli can take it out of the yard.”
Goodson set the season home run and RBI records that Gurholt broke last season. The Plainfield, Ill., native set the season doubles record (13) last season and is one RBI away from breaking the career record (92) she shares with Loni Philbrick-Linzmeyer ’06. “I’m so happy for Carli and all the things she has accomplished. I still want to break the records that she broke of mine,” Goodson said with a laugh. “I think that competition is healthy, and we do feed off it.”
Having two players with that combination of hitting for average and power makes it easier for them to excel while leaving opponents pulling their hair out. It becomes a case of picking your poison. Do you pitch to the career .400 hitter or to the player leading the nation in home runs and RBIs? “They take a little bit of pressure off of each other,” Tatro said. “With this year’s roster, it will be even more of an opportunity to put people on base for them. Offensively, we should be better this year. That’s kind of exciting, and that should alleviate some of the pressure because last year they may have felt like they needed to do it all.”
While the numbers would suggest these women are a couple of naturals, the long hours spent in the cage provides evidence of a commitment to good old-fashioned hard work. “I really work on my mechanics. It’s really muscle memory. You just swing at a pitch you like,” Gurholt said. “You can’t hit home runs if you try to pull every pitch. Don’t try to kill it, and you’ll hit it a lot harder if you are relaxed.” “I don’t consider myself as someone with God-given talent,” Goodson said. “I’ve worked very hard at it. I’ve been playing softball — this is my 18th year — I’ve been playing since I was four. It comes down a lot a lot of nights at the gym with my dad.”
While individual accolades have been prominent for both players, they desire more team success. The Vikings haven’t played in the MWC Tournament since 2006, and that looms as a goal for what will be a young but talented team. “I thought we did way better than anyone thought we were going to do in 2009,” Gurholt said. “We have new blood, a new atmosphere, really talented players. I’m really excited.”
Tatro uses the term “cautiously optimistic” when she talks about the upcoming season. With a balanced conference, Tatro likes the way her team is approaching the season. “They look at how we finished, third in the division behind the teams that finished one-two in the conference. With that type of parity and based on the fall season, they know we are going to be much better,” said Tatro, adding that this team has an ambitious mindset. “That’s their goal — winning the conference title. It’s not a goal we gave them. It’s a goal they have on their own. That’s what makes us pretty excited about the upcoming season.”
Goodson looks at the returning players, the influx of talented newcomers and she believes. “I think that winning conference is a very achievable goal for us this year,” Goodson said. “This year, with all the incoming freshman and all the new talent, I think we’re going to be a force to be reckoned with.”