Different level, same success
UNO softball team keeps up winning ways in first season as D-I program
Published: Sunday, June 17, 2012
Updated: Monday, June 18, 2012 10:06
Winning seasons are something the UNO softball program has become accustomed to. Since 1988, the Mavs have had a winning season every year and average 42 wins per season during that span.
Coach Jean Scarpello and the UNO softball team have arguably the best program on campus. It should be no surprise then that Scarpello and the Mavs responded to the first year of Division I competition perhaps better than any other team at UNO.
Despite only five home games, trips to South Carolina, Florida and Texas and the first game against in-state rival Nebraska since 1982, the Mavs came through with a .571 winning percentage, taking 24 of their 42 games.
“It was a good first year for us,” Scarpello said about UNO’s first season as a D-I program. “Our players, I think, walk away feeling like they had some success and feeling like it’s a good stepping stone for us for next year.”
UNO’s 2012 featured 34 games against D-I opponents and a one-year membership into the Great Western Conference with Utah Valley, Houston Baptist and North Dakota. The Mavs’ went 18-16 in those 34 games and rolled off six wins in a row at an invite in Florida in mid-March.
The 18-16 record against Division I is even more impressive when you consider that UNO started the season with a four-game losing streak and was 4-8 through the first month of the season.
The Mavs then started 0-2 on the trip to Florida and the Rebel Spring Games 0-2 before rattling off six in a row. That streak helped UNO to go 14-8 the rest of the way against D-I teams.
“We set it up to see a lot of different levels because I wanted the players to get educated that way,” Scarpello said about the Mavs’ 2012 schedule. “D-I doesn’t mean it’s automatically better than where a top Division II team is. I think we went in with that mentality that this is a strategic move that we wanna do with the schedule to make sure they’re (the players) educated.”
The 4-8 start shows that it was a little bit of a learning process. Even junior pitcher Dana Elsasser, named GWC Pitcher of the Year and All-GWC First Team took a little bit to get going.
Elsasser piled up 151 innings en route to going 13-9 and posting a 1.07 ERA. But in her first five appearances, Elsasser gave up 11 earned runs, 29 hits and walked 16.
The Hershey, Neb. native then caught fire and only allowed 12 earned runs in her next 22 appearances. Elsasser finished the season with eight shutouts, allowed just .196 hitting average against and had the fifth-best ERA in all of Division I.
“We knew Dana was going to be good, but Dana also had to see that she could handle this level as well,” Scarpello said. “You saw her grow through the year as well as…the wins started coming, the shutouts, there was confidence building every single time she’d step out onto the mound.”
Elsasser ended 2012 with 95 strikeouts, only 32 walks and even earned two saves along the way.
“That helped our players around her too because they thought ‘oh we do have a pitcher who can do this,”’ Scarpello said about Elsasser gaining more and more confidence throughout the season. “I think Dana, we knew she was good but without throwing her that much last year, it was not a surprise, but maybe a pleasant situation to see her grow so fast this year. How she steps out on the mound next year is gonna be a huge advantage [for us].”
Elsasser was one of five Mavs who received all conference honors. Catcher Lauren Larson and designated player Amber Lutmer joined Elsasser on the first team. Pitcher Kat Barrow, third baseman Molly Negrete and outfielder Lindsay Redding took home All-GWC Second Team honors.
Larson started all 42 games at catcher, gunned down five of 14 runners in stolen-base attempts and hit .304 for the season with 42 hits to lead the team. Barrow started in five of her 20 appearances during her freshman season compiling a 9-7 record and a 1.62 ERA, second-best in the GWC behind Elsasser.
Negrete hit .281, scored 10 runs, knocked in nine and started all 42 games at third, earning a .964 fielding percentage along the way. Redding started all 42 games in right field, recording a perfect 1.000 field percentage for the season.