Thinking that the UNO softball program is doing well in its transition to Division I has an unnecessary qualifier involved.
UNO is doing pretty well in Division I softball. Period.
“People talk about us being in transition and all the awesome things we did last year,” Maverick pitcher Dana Elsasser said at Tuesday’s media day. “But a lot of us don’t really think that way. We don’t feel like we’re in transition. We’re just a team that works hard and plays hard and we produce on the field.
“The transition part, to us, feels like it doesn’t really apply. We’re just here to play the best teams and win games.”
UNO, coming off a 36-7 season that was the second-best in program history, begins its third year of Division I play this weekend in St. George, Utah, starting with Friday’s 2:30 p.m. opener against Weber State.
The Mavs were picked to finish second in the Summit League behind North Dakota State, a team that they were unable to play last season when poor weather forced the four-game series to be postponed. North Dakota State won the Summit at 17-1, while UNO was second at 14-3.
“Taking second place was a little bit of a disappointment, and that’s hard to say when you’re only in your second year of transition,” coach Jeanne Scarpello said. “But it was a disappointment. I think these players come in here to win. That’s what this program has been about. And that’s the mindset this year as well.”
The Mavs have a strong nucleus returning from last year, led by Elsasser (21-7, 1.25 ERA), center fielder Allie Mathewson (.395 , 11 homers, 36 RBIs) and first baseman Amber Lutmer (.304, 12 homers, 47 RBIs). Mathewson was a first-team All-Summit pick, while Elsasser and Lutmer each made the second team. Catcher Campbell Ditto (.376, 7 homers, 30 RBIs) was the Summit’s freshman of the year.
Only two regulars have departed.
“There’s no way, with this team that I have, that we weren’t going to challenge them,” Scarpello said.
So the coach improved the schedule quality even further this season to get the Mavs ready for a run at the Summit regular-season title. UNO isn’t able to compete for postseason titles until its four-year transition is complete.
“We want to use the two different parts of our season,” Scarpello said. “The first part is the nonconference one, and we want to learn as much as we can, improve as we go, and play some of the big dogs out there. Once we get into conference play, the No. 1 goal is to win the regular season.”
An athletic freshman class offering speed and power is set to make an impact, too.
“We’re pretty excited to see some good competition,” Lutmer said. “I think we’ll do fairly well.”