By Shane Frederick
Free Press Staff Writer
ST PETER —
When the Gustavus Adolphus softball team went to Arizona last week, Lisa Klass felt a sense of deja vu.
“That’s where it all started for me, freshman spring training,” the senior infielder said. “I look at that team and I look at this team, and there’s just as much potential.”
Klass hopes her final season will be the perfect bookend to her rookie year when the Gusties went to nationals and finished third at the College World Series.
One of two seniors on this year’s roster, Klass is Gustavus’ leader. A three-time All-MIAC selection, the second baseman and lead-off hitter led the Gusties in hitting (.388), on-base percentage (.482), hits (45), doubles (11) and triples (2) a year ago.
“Offensively, she sets the tone with experience like that,” coach Jeff Annis said. “And the kids look to her for leadership.”
Klass, a Richfield native, said she has played second base since she was an eighth-grader. However, last year she was asked to play shortstop when two of her teammates became unavailable due to an injury and an illness. Klass filled in admirably, committing just nine errors, but she’s glad to be back at second.
“It’s almost like you’re home,” she said. “It’s so comfortable. Your brain shuts off, and it’s almost automatic. Our first-base coach (Kyhl Thomson) says I haven’t stopped smiling since going back there. He was excited for me.”
Klass is also excited for the opportunity to play with her sister, freshman Carly Klass, who is starting at third base. Carly is one of four rookies who are already receiving plenty of playing time.
With Lisa Klass back at second, Annis has freshman Shelby Nosan at shortstop. Another freshman, Kailey Morgan is starting at first base, and pitcher Sarah Rozell is already off to a hot start with 29 strikeouts to just four walks in five appearances.
Annis said he has “a good one-two punch” in his pitching staff with Rozell and Kate Rentschler. Rentschler, a junior, was an all-conference selection last season, going 17-8 with a 3.31 ERA.
In the outfield, Jen Ulmen will start in left. She is also the No. 3 hitter, popping a team-high eight home runs a year ago. Already this year she has a grand slam and 10 RBIs.
“She has the potential to be a game-changer,” Annis said.
All-conference pick MacKenzie Dalton, a junior, plays in right field, and sophomore Brittany Brenke will replace the graduated Jenny Ewert in center. At catcher, sophomore Kat Dahl and junior Sam Breneman have shared time so far.
“This is the deepest team we’ve had top to bottom talent-wise,” Annis said. “It creates a lot of good competition in practice.”
Klass agreed and can’t help but think about three years ago.
“To (go to nationals) and to be able to contribute is something I’ll never forget,” she said. “Everything fell into place. I can see that with this team, too.”
The Gusties (5-3) will open MIAC play on Wednesday at Bethel. Their first home game is April 6 against Concordia.