HU softball makes history

Piper softball makes a playoff appearance to complete their best MIAC season in 25 years of Hamline Softball.

Junior Jamie Rubbelke scores a run for the Pipers off a three RBI double delivered by sophomore Mary-Clare Couillard against Bethel on May 2, in the 2015 MIAC Softball Playoffs.

Gino Terrell, Sports Editor

A ground ball slipped out of the grip of Piper’s junior shortstop Jamie Rubbelke as Bethel’s batter reached first base and advanced the runner on third base to score the run that called off game three of the 2015 MIAC Softball Tournament last Saturday, May 3, to put an end to the Pipers best-ever MIAC season.

“It was a little bit of a build up, every year we got a little bit closer and a little bit closer,” senior third baseman Alli Ruter said. “When we kept coming up in the clutch, with certain plays against certain teams, it just kept getting more real and more real.”

Piper softball concluded the 2015 season with a 27-13 (17-5 MIAC) record. Their season officially ended last weekend at the 2015 MIAC Softball Playoffs with a 6-0 loss against 2015 MIAC Champions Gustavus and a 12-4 loss to first place Bethel. Even with being limited to 13 players, the Pipers completed their best season in their 25 year history.

“The thing I liked the most about them is that they show up and play everyday,” head coach Jim Rubbelke said. “I think there’s still another level we can get to.”

Heading into the 2015 season the Pipers were coming off a disappointing finish to their 2014 season. Last year, the Pipers were on the outside looking in come playoff time as their two-game series against the team at the bottom of the MIAC standings was canceled. Had they played and won both of those games they would have made the playoffs.

“It feels really good to come back from that. We just never gave up and knew we could do it this year,” sophomore pitcher Sarah DeMars said.

They also faced another obstacle heading into the 2015 season as they saw their 20-player roster shrink to 13-players. Knowing they would be limited to two pitchers, sophomore Casey Anderson said it forced her and DeMars to work even harder over the offseason.

“I think we just had to go into it thinking that it was kind of up to us,” Anderson said. “There wasn’t an option for us to not work hard…[we had] to be mentally and physically ready to pitch a lot of innings.”

After a 3-5 start this season, the Pipers went on to win 19 of their next 20 games. Anderson said the team was competitive from the start but their conference series against St. Catherine on April 11 showed the team’s will to win.

“We never gave up and came back and fought. I think at that point we realized that we had a lot of potential to be really good,” Anderson said.

During the series against St. Catherine, Anderson had to relieve in the second inning after a line drive hit and injured DeMars. After the team was down 2-0, they rallied to tie the game up in the seventh inning. They took the game all the way into the 14th inning and won 4-3 when Anderson drove Jamie home for the game winning run.

In game two, the Pipers came from behind as they were down three runs. They brought the game into the eighth inning and eventually won. DeMars sitting out due to injury meant Anderson had to pitch for 21 innings that day.

“It’s a lot different knowing that you have no [bullpen] behind you. If you’re down, you have to come back for the next game because anything can happen,” DeMars said.

In the tail end of the season, the team finished 5-5 (2-4 MIAC) before the MIAC playoffs and fell from first to second seed in conference. Ruter said the coaches noticed part of the team’s drive had been absent.

“We started to get comfortable [where] we were at and the drive started to go,” Ruter said.

Heading into the playoffs, Jim said the Pipers needed do what they had done all season to pull out games. That was having solid pitching and playing solid on defense to keep them in the game until their batters would eventually score runs to put the game away.

In the playoffs, the Pipers struggled on defense. With only four hits in the first game, they lost 6-0 to Gustavus on May, 1.

On day two, in their elimination game against Bethel, the team was down 6-0 after the first inning. In the third inning, the Pipers rallied starting with a three RBI double by the team’s leading hitter sophomore Mary-Clare Couillard. However, Bethel managed to pull away with a 12-4 win during their fifth inning rally, where the game  was called off due to the eight run mercy rule.

When it’s all said and done Ruter credits this year’s 2015 team for making it a great senior year for her and her fellow seniors.

“We’re goofy, we’re competitive and we all just love playing softball,” Ruter said. “We all just want to have a good time but at the same time we’re competitive where we don’t want to lose.”

As the Pipers completed their best MIAC season their 25 year history, Jamie is confident the team will be better next season.

“We made huge strides this year which is good. Hopefully next year we can keep them going and just keep improving,” Jamie said.