It takes the little things to build a huge program, and no one knows that better than Murray State softball Head Coach Kara Amundson. This weekend proved to be evidence of the program moving forward as the team hosted its second annual alumnae game and received recognition for several student athletes’ accomplishments in the classroom.
For the second year in a row, the program used Homecoming Weekend to welcome back several former players. Eight alumnae total, including three from the class of 2013 and two each from the 2011 and 2012 classes, made the trek back to their old stomping grounds. For Amundson, the weekend served many purposes, including keeping her former players connected.
“Our alumnae are young still,” Amundson said. “I want the alumane to feel like they still have a tie to the program and that they know the players on the team. I want them to feel like they are engaged. When we are on the road and they’re watching us online they can be like ‘Hey, I know this second baseman’ and I think it just creates a good sense of community and pride in the program.”
Despite families and busy schedules, the former Racers found a way to attend the affair.
“I was happy with the turnout this year,” Amundson said. “You know obviously when you start your career, sometimes it isn’t easy to take a whole weekend and travel so I know some of the people who couldn’t be here were pretty bummed out. I think it’s kind of a fun time to be able to create that kind of culture and pride around our program. I’m just trying to start that foundation to be able to make our program into something big in the future.”
Amundson also received exciting news Oct. 9 when the National Fastpitch Coaches Association honored eight Murray State players with the All-American Scholar-Athlete award. This reward required a 3.5 GPA or better during the 2013-2014 academic year. Recent graduate Leslie Bridges, seniors Alexa Becker, CheyAnne Gaskey, Molly Hargrove and Mallory Richardson, junior Erica Howard, and sophomores Jessica Twaddle and Mallory Young all received recognition.
“I think that that kind of stuff is just as big of a deal as performing on the field,” Amundson said. “I tell our current kids and our recruits even that softball is just a bonus when you get to come and play at a Division I institution. There’s about 1 percent of softball players that go on to play at the next level so the reason they are here at the end of the day is to get a good education and to do well in the classroom. To be able to see that actually taking place and coming to fruition is something that I am very proud of them for.”
The Racers’ performance on the field has been just as impressive as in the classroom. They have won five games this fall with only one blemish on their record, which came against Truman State. Their most impressive victory may have come early against Southern Illinois as they walked away with a 2-0 win.
“I think we’ve had more ups than downs,” Amundson said. “I think we’ve played really well defensively for the most part and I think our pitching staff has done a really good job. We’ve gotten timely hits. I thought our base hitting was also good throughout the fall. We had a little slip up in that Truman State game that we lost, but like I said at this time of the year that was a good opportunity for us to learn and grow from. So I’m happy with what we’re doing right now.”
With only two games left on the fall schedule, Amundson is starting to look ahead to the offseason and the improvements that the team can make.
“I’m kind of excited to be getting into our offseason again,” Amundson said. “It’s a chance for us to really get into fundamentals and things like that. I’m looking forward to that segment and that’s when I see the new kids and even the returners grow in their swing and grow in their fundamentals. I’m happy with where we’re at and I’m looking forward to getting better over the next six weeks before Winter Break.”
The Racers will welcome Shawnee Community College today to Racer Field for their last doubleheader of the season. The first game starts at 4 p.m. with the second following it at 6 p.m.
Story by Peter Northcutt , Staff writer