Softball looks to bounce back in 2024

| Staff Writer

Maggie Baumstark throws the ball to Katie Gould in a game last year. (Clara Richards | Student Life)

After an up-and-down season, the Washington University softball team is ready to compete in 2024. Despite finishing with a 20-18 record (10-10 in UAA play) and concluding with two wins against the University of Chicago, the team missed the playoffs for just the fourth time in the last 20 years. However, aside from a 7-game losing streak at the end of March to begin UAA play, the team looked strong throughout the rest of the season under first-year head coach Casey Cromwell. With a blank slate ahead of them and the fire to return to the postseason like two years ago, the Bears appear poised for a bounce-back. 

“Bringing in a new coach, there is an adjustment to figuring out what values and team culture this team wants to build its foundation on,” senior Emily Talkow said. 

Now, ahead of Cromwell’s second season at the helm, the team is laying down the foundations for an exciting season. With a number of new pieces this year, communication has been crucial and continued to be emphasized throughout the offseason, and celebrating the little wins has brought the team much closer. 

Key Position Players

The team will need to find ways to replicate the production from Katie Gould, who led the team with a .408 average and 58 hits. To fill these spots, the team will look to their “bean of the week,” a player who embodies what it means to be a WashU softball player, voted on by the rest of their team. The two most recent winners, junior captain Maggie Baumstark and sophomore outfielder Sydney Schneider, look to fill this role.

Baumstark, who hit .302 with 32 hits, will be vital to the team’s success. A defensive wizard, her .985 fielding percentage (only one error) impressed as she will look to split time in both the outfield and at catcher. 

Junior Natalia Pilpil will be an important bat for the Bears. Last season, she split time at first base and catcher, playing in all 37 games and leading the team in doubles (9) and home runs (4). She will look to return to a massive role on this team that needs offensive power. Senior Ashley Kennedy will also be important — last year she played in 26 games with 20 hits and batted .308.

The rest of the lineup is rounded out by junior outfielders Olivia Craycraft and Erin Reardon (look to see her contact-first bat become a big part of this season), while the infield will employ graduate student Payton Irwin. A combination of incoming first-years and experienced seniors will likely fill the other three spots. 

Key Pitchers

Jordan Rossi served as a key piece for the Bears in 2023, and she’ll look to slot in as the team’s ace again this season. The junior received a second-team All-UAA nod as she finished with a 2.32 ERA and led the team in wins (8-4) and games on the mound (21). Rossi will be joined by Jamie Burgasser, a fellow junior who will look to build off of a year that saw her finish with a 5-5 record to the tune of a 3.10 ERA and 72.1 innings pitched, including five complete games.

The rest of the pitching staff will employ the likes of senior Emma Urban and other incoming freshmen. They’ll need all the help they can get after the graduation of Holly Stoner, who led the Bears with 91 innings on the mound.

Newcomers

The team looks to rely heavily on their new first-years, “a class that is incredibly talented and driven,” Talkow said. “Each player adds so much unique value to the team.” 

The class includes six first-years — pitcher Hattie Bond, two-way players Maria Brooks and Elena Locascio, and position players Kristina Donaldson, Kennedy Grippo, and Julia Nicholus. 

Scheduling

 The team will begin nonconference play this weekend with doubleheaders against Illinois Wesleyan University on Feb. 17 and 18, but won’t begin conference play until March 29. 

Their UAA opener against Brandeis, when the team will celebrate pride weekend, is one of many themed games the team has planned for the season.There will also be mental-health focused games the weekend of April 12. 

The latter will include a joint first pitch with Case Western — campus captain Baumstark will throw the pitch for the Hidden Opponent, an organization that raises awareness for mental health. 

“With a team motto of ‘Win the Day’ inspired by Catryn Cattor, this team emphasizes celebrating the little delights,” Talkow said. That’s precisely what they plan to do all season long as they take these small victories to a larger goal and come through with competitive games, leaving their heart out on the field. 

 

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