August 12th, 2007 05:09 EST
Minnesota Alumni Softball Team Wins Division Title in First year
In their first year of Capital Alumni Network (CAN) softball, the University of Minnesota Alumni Association's team finished the season as Bull Durham Division Champs with a winning record of 13-1. Led by Coach Scott Nelson, the Golden Gophers also went on to finish ninth place out 66 teams in the tournament to end the season with a record of 16-3.
"Winning the division as a first year team is unprecedented," boasted Nelson. "It is a direct outcome of our friendship, hard work, and competitiveness that has gotten us where we are today."
According to Jason Gray, one of the CAN commissioners, most alumni teams lose the majority of their first year games trying to get their feet wet and build their alumni base.
“Minnesota surprised every one by winning one of the toughest divisions in CAN,” he said.
The team suffered it's only regular season loss to William and Mary 11-12. Coincidently, that same school knocked Minnesota out of the Final Four of CAN basketball earlier in the year. However, big wins against schools like Penn State where they won 15-11 and Indiana 14-5 (who made the championship), put the team on CAN's radar as a force to be reckoned with, said Nelson.
Going into the tournament, Minnesota won its first three games against Yale 7-6, Stanford 21-6, and Penn State 16-7, before suffering back-to-back losses and a double elimination to Villanova 5-12 and Wake Forest 3-11.
Nelson didn't just coach the team; he kept them in first place partially due to his team record of 57 runs batted in (RBIs). Jim Hogan, a non-alumni player, had the highest batting average of .652 over the season as well as led the team with nine homeruns. Erica Fischer, the team's star female and first baseman, made 63 appearances at bat, had 26 hits for an average of .397 including a homerun, two triples and five doubles. But for Fischer, it wasn't about the numbers; it was the camaraderie of playing with fellow Minnesotans.
"I can't think of a better way to spend the summer than playing Minnesota softball with some great friends," she said.
CAN rules require each collegiate team be comprised of 75 percent alumni (students must complete at least one semester at a school to be considered alumni) and only one college varsity player per team is allowed. On the field, three of the 10 players must be female with three locked female positions in the batting line up. Each batter starts with a count of 1-1 (one ball and one strike) and the teams play seven innings and no 10-run rule was enforced (meaning the game is over once a team scores 10 runs over its opponent). This allowed Minnesota to dominate over some teams like Johns Hopkins with a lopsided 31-3 win.
CAN promotes networking with other college alumni, provides activity-planning information and resources, and organizes activities such as sports leagues in which alumni chapters can participate. Next up for the CAN Gophers team is flag football. Many of the softball players as well as a few new recruits are already gearing up for practice and designing plays for the season.
"We will continue to succeed in CAN because we are more talented, more organized, and show more commitment to do whatever it takes to be successful," said Nelson.
As for softball though, they’re the team everyone will be watching next season.
“Minnesota adds some competitiveness to the league in a positive way,” said Gray. “They really raised some eyebrows this summer and we’re looking forward to seeing how they respond next year as defending division champs.”
For more information on Minnesota alumni events in the D.C. area, see their Web site at: http://www.alumni.umn.edu/chapter-washingtondc.html
Regular season score box – Bull Durham Division
Minnesota vs. James Madison University 15-9
Minnesota vs. Ohio State 30-6
Minnesota vs. William and Mary 11-12
Minnesota vs. Illinois 12-11
Minnesota vs. Purdue 18-12
Minnesota vs. Johns Hopkins 31-3
Minnesota vs. Delaware 23-5
Minnesota vs. Colorado 15-12
Minnesota vs. Auburn 3-2
Minnesota vs. Indiana 14-5
Minnesota vs. Embry-Riddle 15-3
Minnesota vs. Wisconsin 10-9
Minnesota vs. Penn State 15-11
Minnesota vs. Navy 21-4