UJ hosts conference tourney
The University of Jamestown and brand new Lyle Lawrence Field will be on full display starting today, playing host to this weekend’s NSAA/Frontier conference postseason softball tournament.
The Jimmies (21-21) have earned the No. 3 seed for the tourney, and they’ll be taking the field at noon to square off against Frontier Conference opponent Great Falls (Mont.).
The game will mark the first time in nearly a week since the Jimmies have been on the diamond. They most recently swept a pair of games against Presentation College last Saturday, but a second doubleheader against the Saints was crossed off the schedule due to the recent snap of wet and dreary spring conditions.
Mother Nature, however, appears as if it plans to cooperate with this weekend’s tournament — which runs through Sunday —and after playing to a record of 5-5 over their last 10 games, maybe a little down time was just what the doctor ordered for the Jimmies.
“We’ll find out (today). In some ways you can get better by doing nothing,” Jimmie softball coach Kevin Gall said. “When you’ve been playing every day, your body wears down and sometimes you tend to develop some bad habits. So sometimes it’s best to just shut it down for a few days.
“I think Emily Snow will hopefully bounce back from the little slump she’s been in, and we’ve got some little bumps and bruises that have all healed up.”
Snow, a senior from Rio Linda, California, will get the nod in the circle today against the Argos (14-15). She leads the Jimmie pitching staff in ERA (2.97) and strikeouts (101), and is tied with Hanna Dunnigan and Mandy Thiessen for the team lead in wins with seven.
Snow, the Jimmies’ ace, has struggled in recent weeks, going 1-6 with one no decision over her last eight starts. But her last win came against today’s opponent in a 5-3 Jimmie victory over Great Falls in Jamestown back on April 12.
The Jimmies swept the Argos that weekend, taking the second half of the doubleheader 5-4. A second twinbill against the Argos, however, was lost due to weather.
Gall and the Jimmies know they’ll more than likely be facing sophomore starting pitcher Keeley Van Blaricom today. Van Blaricom is 3-8 with a 2.17 ERA in 16 starts, and she leads the Argos with 60 strikeouts.
Offensively, Great Falls has been led by Kirstie Thomas (.328) and Kelli O’Brien (6 HRs, 23 RBIs).
“They have a really good pitcher in Van Blaricom. After that they’ve got some bats, and we really didn’t get to see the true power that they have,” Gall said. “With Van Blaricom, she’s got high velocity. She can bring it, and for whatever reason if we can’t time her up and get a rhythm going on her, we’ll struggle to score some runs.
“But it’s one of those things where we just have to go out and play, and (Great Falls) had to sit on the bus the whole day. So hopefully that plays into our advantage.”
The Argos trek to Jamestown this weekend was a 10-hour, 650-mile marathon from Great Falls. The team begins the tournament after falling in each of its last five games.
Courtney Van den Bussche (.434) and Emily Newman (.419) are both batting over .400 for the .500 Jimmies. Van den Bussche also leads the team in runs (36), doubles (9) and stolen bases (18), while Newman’s 33 RBIs and four triples tops the lineup.
“We talked about doing all the little things and to play for each other. If we can continue to do all those little things that will help us be successful,” Gall said. “We’re just going to play one game at a time and one pitch at a time.”
Dickinson State (35-13), winner of 18 straight, is the tournament’s No. 1 seed and is facing No. 6 seed Dakota State (10-30) this morning at 11. Valley City State (21-19) faces Presentation (19-24) at 10:15 a.m. on Field 8 at McElroy Park.
If the Jimmies win, they take on either Valley City or Presentation today at 4 p.m. at Lyle Lawrence Field. If they lose, the Jimmies face Dickinson State or Dakota State at 2 p.m.
The weekend’s tournament champion receives an automatic berth to the NAIA national championship opening round, which will be played from May 12-14 at sites to be determined.
Sun sports writer Michael Savaloja can be reached at 701-952-8461 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org