If early-season tournaments are any indication, the Minot State University softball team is more than prepared for its first season in the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference.
After winning all 10 of their games at the National Training Center Spring Tournament in Clermont, Fla., the Beavers sit at 18-1 entering their conference slate.
Dominant pitching has been the catalyst for MSU's hot start, with the trio of Mandy Greenberg, Tiffany Friesen and Jen Dixon combining for a 0.88 ERA this season. Greenberg (9-0) is the reigning Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference pitcher of the week after going 5-0 on the Florida trip with 56 strikeouts in 32.2 innings.
Minot State University senior Tiffany Friesen tosses a pitch during the National Training Center Spring
Tournament in Clermont, Fla. The Beavers went 10-0 during the event. Photo courtesy of Michael Linnell/MSU sports information.
MSU coach Bill Triplett said Greenberg, a two-time all-Dakota Athletic Conference selection, is pitching at "about 85-90 percent" after surgery on her throwing elbow in September.
The senior is nearly at her pre-injury velocity and has improved her changeup and location, Triplett said.
"Greenberg was just lights out down there," he said. "She kept getting stronger and stronger, kind of returning to her old form. We were in a couple really close games and the rest were pretty comfortable. I didn't count on being 10-0 down there, but in the back of our minds I knew we had a chance."
The Beavers beat the University of Bridgeport (Conn.) 3-1 and Bentley University (Mass.) 4-3, with the other eight victories coming by three or more runs.
Dixon, the Beavers' lefthanded No. 3 hitter, leads the team with a .550 batting average and averages one extra-base hit per game. On the season, the junior has tallied four home runs, six triples and nine doubles.
"She is hitting the ball so hard every time up," Triplett said. "Even the outs she makes are loud outs, they're line drives to second base or deep shots to the wall. Plus she runs so well, a double for most girls is a triple for her."
Said Dixon: "I'm seeing the ball really well and going up with the same thought process every time."
In addition to having a 1.12 ERA over 50 innings this season, Friesen is batting .390 from the cleanup slot. The senior's five homers and 27 RBIs are team highs.
Triplett has also been pleased with the play of sophomore shortstop Ali Cygan, a South Dakota State transfer who is in her first year with the Beavers.
"She's saved so many runs for us defensively," Triplett said of Cygan, who bats No. 2 in the order. "She's a major upgrade for what we've had at shortstop. She's just having a great year."
Perhaps the only thing that could slow MSU's momentum now is the weather. Triplett said it was "disheartening" to land in Minneapolis on Monday and see two feet of snow piled up along the sides of the roads.
MSU is scheduled to play at the University of Mary in an NSIC-opening doubleheader Tuesday, but the frigid weather and amount of snow may not allow it.
"We don't know when we're gonna be able to play again," Triplett said. "It's bittersweet coming home from the trip. We're fired up, 18-1, but on the other hand, we don't know what the future will hold as far as games."