Kutztown gets back in the game
Season of tough losses prepares Golden Bears to fight
SALEM, Va. -- Kutztown has experienced a rather unique season in comparison to most of the other participants in the 2013 NCAA Division II Softball Championships.
The average number of losses for the other seven teams to reach the championship tournament was a little over 10. Kutztown was way above that mark with 21 losses -- that’s 16 more than the 2012 team had when it arrived for last year’s national tournament in Louisville, Ky. The Golden Bears even dropped 13 of 15 during a forgettable stretch of games between late March and early April.
So the Golden Bears chose to implement a rather unique game plan against high-scoring Humboldt State in Friday’s winners’ bracket game.
They were hoping to shut the Jacks out and that’s exactly what happened. Kutztown advanced to the final of its four-team bracket on Sunday by topping Humboldt State 1-0 at the James I. Moyer Sports Complex.
How great of a task is keeping the Jacks off of the scoreboard? Well, the last team to do it -- Chico State -- pulled off a 5-0 win back on March 1. It was one of two games Humboldt State did not manage to plate at least one run. In fact, the Jacks had scored at least four times in each of their last 17 games prior to Friday.
Kutztown catcher Katie Lynch said while that might have been the case, the Golden Bears had a plan.
“Honestly, I trust our defense, and I believed it was possible,” Lynch said. “They are a good hitting team and we felt like we just needed to keep the ball low and play good defense.”
After getting swept in a double header on senior day by Shippensburg, Kutztown stood with a record of 23-21 and wasn’t even sure if it would qualify for its conference tournament.
“It wasn’t a very good feeling,” Lynch said. “But we had one more pair of conference games, and we said ‘This is it. We need to make a run here.’”
Lynch can laugh about all this now.
“Definitely we had some doubts, but once you have those doubts…it can go one of two ways -- up to the mountain or down in the gulley,” Lynch said. “We just said we have to take that climb and get up there.”
Lynch is one of four seniors to return from what was a senior-dominated 2012 Atlantic Regional championship team, along with Brianna Knipe, Maria Isgro and Nicole Henninger. And Lynch is handling a pitching staff that consists of two sophomores and a freshman. Again, that draws some laughter.
“We definitely have a crazy team,” Lynch said. “Everyone is so different, but we mesh so well. Everyone is getting along, we have a lot of fun and our parents give us all a great support system.”
When the Golden Bears were literally down to their last chance, this young group that had already gone through its share of adversity, figured it out.
Five days after the senior day losses, Kutztown went to East Stroudsburg and swept that double header -- the second by a score of 8-0. The Golden Bears (36-21) head into Sunday’s game with a 13-game winning streak.
Kutztown head coach Judy Lawes said much of the credit for the last three weeks goes to Lynch, and her fellow seniors.
“All four years, [Katie’s] been a leader,” Lawes said. “She’s a four-year starter, all of our seniors are four-year starters. This last part of the season has been very satisfying.”
So why not plan on beating one of the best hitting teams in the nation 1-0? Stranger things have happened. Lynch and her Golden Bear teammates know this first-hand.