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Improved pitching to lead DWU softball

Dakota Wesleyan University's softball team didn't have the pitching it needed in 2015 and because of deficiency, the Tigers were 10-34 on the season.

Dakota Wesleyan University's softball team didn't have the pitching it needed in 2015 and because of deficiency, the Tigers were 10-34 on the season.

But 2016 brings about a new outlook on the Tigers, which has more arms available to pitch and brings back some of the conference's best bats. The Tigers open the season today at St. Cloud State (Minn.) with a doubleheader and a four-game series with the Huskies inside the school's inflatable bubble.

DWU head coach Ed Kieff said youth will be served early after the program brought in 13 freshmen in the latest recruiting class.

"Virtually every single one of them will be impact players," he said.

Among the notables are Sioux Falls product Sierre Hagge and Mitchell native Hallie Misiaszek, a pair of freshmen pitchers that Kieff said will be two of the better newcomers to the conference. Hagge, who pitches and plays first base, hit .513 with the Diamonds Select club team in 2014 and had 33 extra base hits. Misiaszek - daughter of Tiger pitching coach Jim Misiaszek - is the all-time leader in hits, pitching wins, strikeouts and earned run average for the Kernels' high school team and was a three-time all-state selection for Mitchell. She was also a member of the Diamonds Select team, which showcases college prospects from eastern South Dakota.

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Coupled with juniors Lorissa Loeppky and Kelly Taylor, a transfer who sat out last season, Kieff said he expects the Tigers to make a big improvement on last season's disappointment.

"Going from last year and having two pitchers to this season and having four good pitchers, we're excited about that," Kieff said.

The Tigers pitching staff struggled throughout the season in 2015. In 44 games, the Tigers had an earned run average of 7.39, dead last in the Great Plains Athletic Conference and opponents hit .423 against the Tigers, which was 189th out of 195 teams in NAIA softball. Loeppky is the top returning starting pitcher, with a 10-20 record in 2015 and a 5.53 ERA.

"It wasn't anything with the team (last year)," Kieff said. "We just lacked the pitching. That's put behind us and the feeling is completely different for our team. We have talented players up and down the lineup.

"There isn't one of them that isn't excited about getting on the field this weekend," Kieff said. "They know we have to do what's best for the team to win. It's a team sport and we need every player to win games."

On the flip side, DWU doesn't expect offense to be a problem. The Tigers hit .277 as a team and bring back two top hitters in catcher Hailey Unger, who hit .372 last year and third baseman Vanessa Mendez, who hit .324 a year ago. Both had a team-high six home runs last year.

The Tigers will have to earn their respect in the Great Plains Athletic Conference after being picked 11th in the 12-team league in the preseason coaches poll. The coach's aspirations are much higher than climbing the conference standings."

"We have powerful hitters and the speed that you need," Kieff said. "The goal is to get to the national tournament and we've got players that are working toward that goal."

Related Topics: SOFTBALL
Traxler is the assistant editor and sports editor for the Mitchell Republic. He's worked for the newspaper since 2014 and has covered a wide variety of topics. He can be reached at mtraxler@mitchellrepublic.com.
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