NEW ULM - The Martin Luther College Knights' softball team is looking to build on their 9-23 record from a year ago and finish in the top half of the Upper Midwest Athletic Conference.
MLC was picked to finish seventh in the UMAC preseason coaches' poll.
The Knights are returning five starters led by Honorable Mention All-UMAC performer junior Maddy Scott. Scott is the teams returning leader in batting average (.373), on-base percentage (.393), runs (23), hits (38), and stolen bases (15 in 16 attempts). Through eight games this season, Scott is hitting .320 and has a 1.000 fielding percentage.
Staff photo by Steve Muscatello
Amber Krause will be a key player for the Martin Luther College softball team this season.
MLC also returns sophomore outfielder Emily Waldek to join Scott. Waldek hit .333 with 10 extra base hits and a .486 slugging percentage as a freshman in 2012. Waldek is hitting .481 with a .852 slugging percentage so far this season.
The Knights look to have a very strong left side of the infield with two returning senior starters Amber Krause and Amanda Fogle at shortstop and third base, respectively. In their first eight games, Krause is hitting .417 and Fogle is hitting .345.
MLC returns two experienced utility players in senior Andrea Biedenbender and sophomore MacCartney Mendolla. Both have the ability to play any position on the field for the Knights. Mendolla is leading the team in hitting so far this season with a .600 average, while Biedenbender is right behind her with a .591 average and a .909 slugging percentage.
Biedenbender has already been named the UMAC player of the week this season for her performances in her first eight games.
"We have really good senior leadership in Amber (Krause), Amanda (Fogle), and Andrea (Biedenbender), and we are looking to have big years out of those three," MLC head coach Barb Leopold said.
The Knights have a strong group of freshman joining the team this year led by Maggie Schultz and Kathryn Marquardt. Schultz is a utility player who can be looked to for innings in both the infield and the outfield, while Marquardt is predominately a pitcher. Schultz is hitting .421 with a .842 slugging percentage so far this season.
"All our freshmen have brought something new to the team," Krause said. "They are all very versatile and able to fill in the gaps where we need people."
The Knights will be led on the mound this year by senior Laura Miller. Miller is the school's career record holder for innings pitched (299.1). She also ranks second in strikeouts (117) and fifth in wins (15). Marquardt will also be looked to provide some quality innings on the mound this season.
Weather permitting, the Knights will kick off UMAC play away on April 3 against their conference rival Bethany Lutheran College.
"We can play with any team in the conference," Krause said. "With the combination of our new freshmen and our team chemistry, we will be a contender for the UMAC tournament."