Krista Flugstad, Kylie Macziewski and Claire Woebke played on the same fastpitch softball team since first trying softball for the first time as seven-year-olds in Bloomington. The trio helped Jefferson to four consecutive state tournament appearances and continued that success into college, now juniors.
St. Catherine’s University had a historic spring that culminated with a trip to the NCAA Division III National Tournament in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.
The Wildcats (38-14) posted a 17-5 record in Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference play before winning 9-of-10 games to reach nationals.
St. Kate’s beat Luther twice to win the NCAA Regional in Decorah, Iowa before returning to St. Paul for the Super Regional against St. Thomas.
“It was an amazing journey,” Woebke, one of three juniors from Bloomington, said. “The harder we worked the better we did. Regionals was incredible, we built on that at the super regionals and this team did a great job of staying consistent. We tried to get one percent better every day.”
Woebke was the first to commit and describes her role as a junior is to help generate runs by laying down a perfect bunt. “My job is pretty simple,” Woebke said as she set a single-season sacrifice hits record of 52 and career walks mark of 47.
The Wildcats lost three games to end a spring break trip to Florida and needed a win on the final day of conference play to qualify for the MIAC tournament before beating Hamline twice to win the MIAC tournament.
“Resiliency,” is one word Woebke used to describe the Wildcats success. “We learned how to bounce back,” she said they beat Luther twice, a team that lost only three times leading up to that point.
St. Kate’s dropped the Decorah regional opener to the University of Chicago 1-0, a game that Flugstad reached the 100-career hits mark, joining Macziewski.
The Wildcats rebounded by winning the next four games including a 5-2 rematch against Chicago before downing Luther 2-1 and 6-5 for the regional title.
St. Kates rose to seventh by the final National Fastpitch Coaches Association Top-25 Poll.
That success continued back in St. Paul as St. Cate’s didn’t travel far for the program’s first-ever NCAA Super Regional appearance at the University of St. Thomas. The Tommies were ranked No. 23 at the time and the Wildcats won both games to advance.
Flugstad was the ace in the pitching circle for the Wildcats. Not only did she set a new program high for wins but earned several individual honors including Most Valuable Player from the MIAC Postseason tournament, Decorah, Iowa Regional and St. Paul Super Regional. She joined teammate Jenna George as the first St. Kate’s players to earn All-American honors and was named to the All-MIAC, All-Regional and All-American Second-Team. She compiled a 29-7 record to set a new single season and program career high for wins to go along with a 1.52 ERA. In MIAC play she was 11-1 with the second-best ERA of .086. Her 20 regular season wins was the sixth best in the nation and a 1.08 ERA was 26th best. She hit .283 and had an MIAC-high hit by pitches with nine.
Returning home to St. Paul to face St. Thomas for a trip to nationals was a great opportunity for St. Kates. “It was definitely interesting since we knew we’re playing another MIAC team and knew they really well,” Flugstad said. Another factor was that finals were the same week and Flugstad completed one of her finals the day of the first Super Regional game.
In the Super Regional, Flugstad gave up five runs in the two-game series as the Wildcats won the decisive game 8-4.
Flugstad credits the Wildcats new pitching coach, Kollen Rezny for helping her focus on the mental side of the game and refining her mechanics. Combine that focus with the support from the fielders behind her to make plays and the Wildcats were a formidable force.
“It’s helpful to have everyone behind me know I believe in them and I have confidence in them that if a ball gets behind me, I know they’ll make a great play. Thats a testament to the team chemistry. It’s really awesome,” she said.
Macziewski was named MVP going 4-for-6 with the game-tying home run in the fifth inning. As the game recap from St. Kates said about the hit, “Unleashed her inner Kraken and hit a monster home run over the center field fence. Flugstad sent down the Tommies in order in the fifth and allowed one base runner in the sixth inning to preserve the tie.” Woebke and Amber Montero lashed consecutive singles before Jenna George drove in Woebke on a third base hit for the game-winning run. Macziewski knocked in her second run of the game on a single to center field to extend the lead to 6-4 and came around to score on a passed ball to make it 8-4.
The first game of the series was much different as both pitchers made it tough for the batters. St. Kates scored once in the second inning and that was more than enough for Flugstad for the complete game shutout. Two runners reached base for the Tommies through the first five innings, neither on a hit.
Macziewski had two hits in the game for her 19th multi-hit game of the season which including nine home runs. She had four hits against Concordia Moorhead and Hamline and went 3-for-5 with two RBIs in a May 6 win over St. Thomas.
St. Kate’s coach Colleen Powers and her coaching staff was named the Regional Staff of the Year by the NFCA which includes Rezny and assistant Jordan Rice.
St. Kate’s season came to an end on May 26 in a 6-5 loss to Williams College at the national tournament, the day after losing the national tourney opener to Illinois Weselyan 7-0.
Williams scored four times in the third inning to build a 4-0 lead before St. Kate’s rallied to score five times in bottom of the sixth inning. Woebke was part of the late rally, drawing the second of back-to-back walks. Macziewski kept it going with an RBI single to centerfield with the bases loaded before coming around to score on a double by Osseo grad Ashley Sis to cut the lead to 6-5.
Being able to play together in college is something Woebke says has been, “worth ever second. Our families are close.”
Macziewski said: “It’s been an amazing experience. I never expected (to be with Krista Claire in college) but it’s cool to be able to do this with the same teammates I’ve played with my entire life.”
Flugstad added: “It’s cool to be able to say that I’ve played with the same teammates for well over a decade.”
Follow sports editor Jason Olson on Twitter at @SunSportsJason.