JAKE BILYEU; Sports Writer: firstname.lastname@example.org
Pacific Lutheran University Softball may have had their games cancelled last Saturday at St. Martin’s, but that has done little to slow the momentum of a team looking to reclaim their dominance of years past. That charge to the top has been spearheaded by one of the Northwest Conference’s top pitchers, who finds herself cementing her legacy as a Lute.
Junior Marissa Miller has been one of the most dominant members of her softball team since coming to PLU two years ago. In her first two seasons, she claimed 19 wins as a starting pitcher. She also pitched 25 complete games and earned 157 strikeouts in her first two seasons.
The Lutes couldn’t escape mediocrity in those two years. While yearning to match the accomplishments of PLU’s 2012 National Champions, the Lutes have repeatedly finished in the middle of the pack.
However, a new head coach could boost the Lutes’ chances this season. As Brandi Gordon Bennett assumes the head coaching position, Miller and company have acquired newfound confidence that could bode well for them this spring.
“She’s been smooth in transition, and it’s great to have a new aspect to our team,” Miller said of coach Bennett. “The game doesn’t feel too different because all of our assistant coaches are still here, makes it easy to learn our new game plan.”
A new head coach wasn’t the only addition that the Lutes gained this offseason. After only graduating two seniors last year, the Lutes have acquired four first years that have helped shake up the Lutes’ new look even more.
“We’ve been off to a great start, and the mix of young and experienced players is really good,” Miller said. “We brought back a lot of key players, too, so we’ve been able to create some good momentum.”
That mix of old and new has made practices much more competitive, which Miller thinks will surely benefit the team this season.
“We’ve gotten great help from our underclassmen,” Miller said. “We have a deep roster and we get lots of contributions from players, which makes it more fun to compete for starting spots.”
The Lutes’ depth provided tremendous stability in their opening weekend in California, as every member of the team got a chance to play while the Lutes went 3-1 in their first four games. That depth is showing up both on the field and in the dugout, as Miller now has another arm waiting to back her up during the season.
“Sydney Taggart is our new first-year pitcher, so it’s super helpful to have her,” Miller said. “Now with more pitchers, I don’t feel the need to rest my arm during the week, so I can practice and get more work in.”
With a bulkier roster on all fronts, the Lutes now look to capitalize, hoping their record will show their improvement come season’s end.
“Our biggest goal is making the top 4 in conference to get to the playoffs,” Miller said. “We haven’t in my last 2 years, but it seems doable this year and is going great so far.” The Lutes meet their first conference foe of the year this weekend when they host Pacific University on Saturday and Sunday at noon and 2 p.m.