BY AUSTIN RUSH | The Statesman After an up and down start to the season, the Bulldog softball team is 15-5 in their last 20 games thanks to a key loss early on in the season, as well as an unorthodox good luck charm.
A 6-5 loss to Wilmington University on their Florida road trip turned out to be a positive thing for the Bulldogs, as they became believers in themselves at that point.
Down 6-2 with two outs in the bottom of the seventh inning, UMD appeared to be down and out against Wilmington. They hadn’t been able to score since the first inning, and one out would end the game.
That was when the Bulldogs’ bats came to life.
Five consecutive batters reached base for UMD. Singles from Abbey Nelson and Sami Schnyder brought the Bulldogs within one run of tying the game.
Alas, they were unable to complete the comeback, but the confidence they gained that day was far more important.
“Our second day of games in Florida was probably the turning point for us,” head coach Jen Walter said. “It was actually the only game we lost that seemed to get us going. We really hit the ball very well.”
Walter believes that four-run rally was the spark her team needed to find their identity and give the team the confidence they need to win games.
“I think that really relaxed our hitters and also allowed them to feel comfortable and confident in the batter’s box,” Walter said.
Walter said that getting UMD’s offense going, which at one point was ranked last in the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference in terms of batting average, was the key, as they have had consistent pitching all season.
The offense wasn’t the only thing the Bulldogs found that day. Since then, they’ve become much closer.
“We’ve really come together as a team,” sophomore infielder Becky Smith said. “Not just our hot bats, but mentally too—playing for each other and always having each other’s backs.”
The bats and chemistry put the Bulldogs on the hot streak and back into the upper half of the NSIC standings.
To achieve a .750 winning percentage over a 20 game span, a little luck is needed too.
That’s where Sara Cocchiarella, a 7th grader from Chippewa Middle School in the Twin Cities, has been able to help.
The program’s unofficial super fan and batgirl, Cocchiarella has become UMD’s good luck charm.
The 12-year-old has been to six games with the Bulldogs so far, four of which the Bulldogs won.
“When I was the batgirl they won both games against the hardest team,” Cocchiarella said, referring to the last Sunday’s sweep of Winona State.
Locked into a stalemate in the first games of their doubleheader against Winona State, junior outfielder Hailey Lundquist was told by an assistant coach to rub Cocchiarella’s helmet for good luck—and it worked.
Lundquist smacked a leadoff double in the seventh inning. Two batters later, Ashley Schilling drove her home with a double of her own, sealing both the win and Cocchiarella’s place as the Bulldogs’ good luck charm.