The Oles took the field for their double-header against Hamline on Monday, May 3, just two wins away from a conference championship. Minutes into the first game, Hannah Matthies ’21 put St. Olaf on the board with an RBI double, scoring Kaleigh Santmyer ’23. They never lost the lead, with Matthies and Santmyer, the Oles’ two best hitters, combining for six of the team’s seven hits, driving in three of their four runs. On the other side of the ball, Julie Graf ’21 struck out thirteen, allowing just one earned run. They won with a formula we’ve grown accustomed to seeing, and have come to expect – offense led by the top of the order and a pitching performance that would be unbelievable if it were anyone else throwing it.
Game two displayed a different type of excellence from Coach Kayla Hatting’s squad. After jumping out to a 3-1 lead, Hamline entered the sixth inning just six outs away from victory. Abby Grismer ’21 and Maya Patty ’23 each singled to start the inning, and would both score on fielder’s choices. With two outs and two runners on base, Matthies doubled to center field, driving in the winning runs. The Oles tacked on more runs in the 8th, making the score 9-3, fueled by four gutsy innings from starting pitcher Carly Dammann ’22. The game ended the same way the conference season had begun exactly one month ago – a Julie Graf strikeout. For the first time since 1996, the Oles are regular season conference champions.
In a year where many teams at St. Olaf failed to stay on the field due to COVID-19 protocols, the softball team will finish the regular season without missing a single conference game. It’s an almost unbelievable accomplishment, and in many ways it is a testament to the team’s culture and dedication they’ve been building for the past four years.
While the year has been about anything but individual accolades for this squad, we’ll likely see more than a few all-conference honors announced within the coming weeks. Graf is a lock as the conference’s Pitcher of the Year, with Matthies, Santmyer and Alle Bode ’21 likely nabbing spots on the All-Conference team. With two games to play, Matthies will make her case for Player of the Year honors, barely trailing St. Catherine’s Angela Huepfel in the major statistical categories.
St. Olaf closed out the regular season May 5 on the road against St. Thomas, and will start the conference playoffs on May 14 as the top seed. With nothing left to prove, it will be exciting to watch this team compete together for two more weeks, looking to finish off their historic season with both a regular season and playoff title for the first time in program history.