Softball kicks off 2020 season in Rambler Rumble

David Koier, Courier Staff

 

The brisk chill in the air and fresh snow on the ground can mean only one thing: it’s the beginning of softball season. That’s right, the Western Illinois softball season kicks off this weekend as the Leathernecks travel to Rosemont, Ill. to compete in the Rambler Rumble hosted by Loyola Chicago. While the playing conditions outside may be frigid, all games will take place in the warm and snow free Rosemont Dome.

Gameplay will take place Friday through Sunday with the Leathernecks facing off against the University of Wisconsin- Green Bay Phoenix and IUPUI Jaguars on Friday the 7th, the Evansville Purple Aces and Miami (OH) University RedHawks on Saturday the 8th and close out the weekend with a Sunday matinee against the Butler Bulldogs.

Last season, the Leathernecks ended their 2020 campaign with a 20-20 overall record while finishing 12-6 in conference. The Purple and Gold ended the regular season on a high note, winning nine straight games on their way to three straight conference series sweeps. However, they were not able to triumph in The Summit League Conference tournament, losing to the Purdue Fort Wayne Mastodons 7-5 in the first round.

Western is not unfamiliar with some of the teams from the Rumble this year. The Leathernecks faced off against Butler, Green Bay and IUPUI last season beating Butler and IUPUI while falling to Green Bay.

The off-season saw major changes to both coaching and the roster. Head coach Beth Golitko announced back in August via her personal Twitter that she had accepted an assistant coach position at Loyola Chicago.

“I want to thank everyone that has been a part of my time at WIU,” Golitko said. “I would not be where I am today without all the people who have helped me throughout my entire time there. Playing, GA, Assistant and Head, there is no better place I would have picked to become my second home.”

Taking Golitko’s place at the helm for the 2020 campaign is former softball skipper Holly Van Vlymen. Van Vlyman was the head coach of Western Illinois softball for 11 seasons until 2017 amassing an overall record of 238-287-2. The three time Summit League Coach of the Year will still maintain her role as Assistant Director of Academics and Student Athlete Development at Western along with her coaching duties.

On the player side of things,  the Leathernecks graduated seven seniors after the 2019 season. One major senior loss came from the pitcher’s circle in Emily Ira. The Iowa City native finished the season leading all of NCAA Division-I in strikeout-to-walk ratio, sitting down 9.13 batters per each walk on her way to a 13-7 record and a team-low 2.73 ERA. Over her time at Western, Ira was able to record 63 career complete games and 618.2 career innings pitched, both rank fourth alltime in program history.

Junior Abby Carlin will take over the top spot in the rotation coming off of a 2019 season that featured a 3.46 ERA and 4-8 record. Carlin walked just 16 batters in 81.0 innings of work. Freshman Maddy Anderson and sophomore Savannah Rodriguez will also be featured in the circle for the Leathernecks this season.

The Leathernecks were voted to finish tied for fifth with the Mastodons in The Summit League preseason poll. Senior Jasmine Lara and sophomore catcher Danielle Olson earned preseason honors as they were both voted to The Summit League Players to Watch list. Lara played in all 40 games last season, accumulating a team high 40 hits while also scoring 31 runs. As a freshman, Olson strung together a team-high .324 batting average with one homer and 18 RBI in 26 games (22 starts).

The Leathernecks kick off their season this Friday at 10 a.m. against UW-Green Bay.