Softball opens their season with a win

Pipers look to build on their best season ever.

Jake Kjos, Senior Reporter

After a second place finish in the MIAC last year, Hamline started off their season with a double-header in Rochester against Martin Luther and Luther. The games played on Saturday, Feb. 27 marked the opening of a season that comes with high expectations.

Last season the team went 17-5 in conference play, and senior shortstop Jamie Rubbelke talked about the importance of having a humble mindset despite the success.

“I think definitely keeping in mind that the league is competitive, but we need to be competitive offensively and defensively,” she said.

Jim Rubbelke, head coach and Jamie’s father, has set up a schedule that he thinks will increase the difficulty for the team and get them to become even better.

“They know how to win. It might be pretty important this year. It’s probably the toughest schedule I’ve put together. Being able to play tough competition will help us. Our conference is the best it’s been top to bottom,” he said.

In preparation for the team’s first games of the season, Rubbelke talked about the ways he tries to get the team ready to transition from practice to full speed.

“A lot of inter-squadding, being able to see as much live pitching as you can. Hopefully the batting practice we’ve had will help them,” he said.

Sophomore catcher Abbie Annen, a transfer from Winona State University, noted some of the drills the team has worked on to improve defensively.

“Just trying to get our defense all on the same page. A lot of reps, grounders, pop flies. Situational defense like first and third, and bunt defense,” Annen said.

The team faced Martin Luther to begin their season and showed the form they expected with the senior leadership and many major contributors from last season still on the roster. After five innings the Pipers led 11-3, enough to force the end of the game and give the Pipers a victory right off the bat.

Annen talked about what it feels like to play the first game of the season.

“It’s exciting to start the season, to actually be starting games,” she said. “You spend so long practicing and conditioning to have it pay off.”

The team faced Luther in the second game of the double-header hosted in the Rochester Dome. Luther is a team that Hamline has previously struggled against, and was seen as a tough test going into the game.

Hamline lost 1-8 in the game, but coach Rubbelke looks ahead to later in the season when games will matter most.

“Our goals are always the same every year. Finish in the top four of the MIAC, play our best ball at the end of the season,” he said.

Rubbelke also praised the leadership of the upperclassmen on the team, and thinks they have helped the development of the younger players that compose a larger roster than last year’s team.

“They’ve done a great job. The nice thing is our younger players are working at more than one position,” he said. “The biggest growth has probably been from the new players.”

Another contributing factor to the team’s growth is the inside source Rubbelke has in his daughter Jamie. She talked about some of the ways it has helped her and her teammates to be coached by her dad.

“Helping explain things like the way he sees it, just from my perspective. Being a good role model, being there for them to ask questions,” she said. “My transition into college softball was a lot easier knowing the plays. Me and my dad have become good friends.”

The Pipers will play another doubleheader on Saturday, March 5 against Dubuque and Millikin. The games will also be hosted in Rochester and will be the only games in Minnesota during the month of March.

Later in the month the team will travel to California for warmer weather and a chance to play outside against teams who will have played many more games than the Pipers at that point.