Coley Ries was ready to begin her freshman softball season at Minnesota State when her arm began to hurt.
She hadn’t had a sore arm since she pitched as a freshman at Mankato East, but it was serious, perhaps even career-ending before her college career could even begin.
“I really had never known a life without softball,” Ries said. “I was ready to go, but then I couldn’t do it. I think that helped me this year because every pitch I throw, every inning I pitch, it’s a blessing.”
Minnesota State, hosting postseason play for the fourth straight season, opens the national tournament at 11 a.m. today against Southeastern Oklahoma State. Emporia State faces Central Oklahoma in the other first-round game at 1:30 p.m. The tournament continues through Sunday.
Ries will be the Mavericks’ starter, an easy decision at this time, but it was hardly the plan when the season began. She was eased in during the season-opening tournament in Arkansas in mid-February, and pitched a little more during an early March trip to Florida. Finally, when the Mavericks played in the Missouri Western tournament later in March, Ries started pitching like the phenom she was at East.
“I knew if she was healthy, she was a pretty good pitcher,” coach Lori Meyer said. “We saw that before she was injured. You could see that she could move the ball and had good, tight spin on the ball. She’s a competitor, and her softball intelligence is very high.”
Last week, Ries was named the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference pitcher of the year and freshman of the year. She appeared in 35 games, including 27 starts, and pitched 19 complete games with six shutouts. Her record is 23-6 with a 1.75 earned run average and 237 strikeouts in 184 innings.