Ferris answers the first challenge at nationals

By Sandy Gholston

HOUSTON – It’s only natural to feel some nerves in your first appearance in the NCAA Division II Softball National Championships.

Sarah Mueller
Ferris State University’s Sarah Mueller delivers her pitch during the 2008 NCAA Division II National Softball Championships at Memorial Park in Houston against Francis Marion. (Photo/Sandy Gholston)
The atmosphere, particularly with so much at stake, can be akin to overwhelming for a lot of first-time players. Ferris State University’s team, making its first appearance in the national tournament since 1999, had some players battling a powerful case of butterflies. Junior starting pitcher Sarah Mueller, who got the ball in the team’s first-round contest against Francis Marion (38-15), spoke of some nerves the team felt. But, any anxiety was quickly put to bed as game time neared.

“I think before the game there were some of us who were feeling some jitters with this being our first time playing in this kind of an atmosphere at nationals, but then once we got into our warm-ups we started to relax a little more,” said Mueller, who had a strong day at the plate with two hits in four trips with a run scored. “After that (warm-up), we were a lot more calm feeling and we were ready to just go out and play some good softball.”

The Bulldogs did indeed play some good softball against Francis Marion.

Mueller in particular had a day as she threw a complete seven innings, allowed four hits and stuck out four to lead Ferris to a 2-0 win over the Patriots at Memorial Park. The shutout means the Bulldogs, now 35-16, have held their opponent scoreless for five straight NCAA Tournament games – including the four in Edwardsville, Ill. that put the Bulldogs in the 2008 NCAA Division II National Championships.

Junior first baseman Amanda Jager had an RBI single in the third inning and junior outfielder Holly Bruntjens increased the lead to 2-0 with an RBI hit in the top of the fifth. Like Mueller, Jager had two hits in four trips and also scored a run with her RBI.

“I left the players to do warm-ups on their own to get into their own mood,” Ferris head coach Keri Becker said as her Bulldogs and Francis Marion were the only two teams that entered the national tournament unranked according to the most recent National Fastpitch Coaches Association poll. “The team had what I would call more of a calm confidence about them when they stepped on the field for the game. They weren’t overly excited, but they were ready to go. They came out relaxed and ready to play.”

Lynsay Weaver
Ferris State University’s Lynsay Weaver tries to tag out a Francis Marion runner at second base during the 2008 NCAA Division II National Softball Championships at Memorial Park in Houston against Francis Marion. (Photo/Sandy Gholston)
Becker was pleased with the performance of Mueller.

“I went out before the game and told her that she needed to be ready to play in the first inning and not by the third inning … I told her we needed her right off the bat,” Becker said of Mueller, who credited a sharp curveball for her success against the Patriots. “I challenged her and I think she responded very well to being challenged like that. She pitched very well.”

Ferris advances to round two where it takes on No. 22 St. Edward’s (a 5-4 winner over Barry in the first round). The teams face each other at 3 p.m. on Thursday.

If you have any questions, ideas or comments feel free to contact Sandy Gholston at sgholston2@netzero.com

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