What You Should Know About Augustana Softball

In 2018 the spring sports season in South Dakota endured its worst spell of weather for as far back as the local population could recall. The temperature averaged 26.1 degrees over the first nine days of April, almost breaking the record set in 1899 when the temperature averaged 28.4 degrees.

The softball program at Augustana University had to either cancel games on their schedule (7), reschedule on a different day than originally intended or play them at a different site because the weather was so bad -- the coldest April ever by 2.3 degrees. Of note was a bus ride to Minot, N.D., to play indoor games at 9 and 11 p.m. 

Badge of Honor

Such is the life of softball in cold weather areas of the country. 

At its best, springtime in South Dakota is quite dysfunctional when it comes to offering weather good enough for facilitating outdoor sports. At its worst, it’s downright unbearable. 

“We don’t look at it as a disadvantage,” said Augustana coach Gretta Melsted, who entered the 2019 campaign with a career record of 548-301(.646), including 467-205 (.694) in 12 seasons at Augustana. “We try to wear it as a badge of honor – that we’re going to have the advantage in those situations because we handle these things better than other teams. Most of our kids are born and raised in this area and this is just what we’re used to. Other people might question how we are able to deal with the weather, not knowing if you’re going to play one day or not, not getting on the field outside until the end of March, the beginning of April on a consistent basis, but we embrace it and get tougher because of it.” 

Interestingly enough, Melsted emulated the late Tennessee basketball coach Pat Summitt, who won eight national titles and helped make it acceptable, admirable, even downright awesome to be a visibly tough woman in charge. Before switching over to coach softball on a full-time basis, Melsted — who excelled in basketball and softball at Carleton College (Northfield, Minn.) and holds the school record for runs in a season (36 in 1997) — incorporated a certain style similar to Summitt’s demanding approach while coaching both basketball and softball at several different high schools.

Over the years while leading Augustana, her teams have matched the tough mindset and are known throughout Division II as one of the most difficult to play. 

Despite the historically low temperatures during the 2018 campaign, Augustana managed to string together 17 consecutive wins in the middle of the season on its way to a 42-15 record that culminated in a loss to Minnesota State in the NCAA Division II Central Region 2 Semifinals.

This season, the No. 14 Lady Vikings have had another impressive start, compiling a 20-5 non-conference slate during the months of February and March.

“Don’t get me wrong, South Dakota is not a softball hotbed but I learned early on that to be successful coaching any sport, you have to get the right players that fit your style and your program,” said Melsted, who worked under seven head coaches before getting her first head coaching job in 2004 at Culver-Stockton.

Revival

Melsted is admittedly fortunate to have landed at a place where one of the best coaches of all time —Sandy Jerstad — held the reign for 27 seasons. Jerstad guided the Vikings program from its infancy to national prominence from 1977-2003, compiling a 1,011-359-2 record to become the winningest softball coach in NCAA Division II history. When she retired after the 2003 season, she ranked second all-time in wins among NCAA softball coaches, regardless of division. 

“I was really lucky,” said Melsted, who took over the program in 2007 after Jenny Hill guided the Vikings to a 91-60-1 overall record in three seasons. “This program has a lot of tradition. Sandy did a phenomenal job in building something special here. Understandably, there was already a winning culture here. I just had to revive it.”

Part of reviving the magic was in finding student-athletes who “fit” the Melsted program as well as the Augustana academic standards. 

“It’s all about getting the right athlete, the right person for the program and the school,” Melsted said. “We have a very high academic profile at Augustana. We have to bring in a lot of really bright kids.”

Augustana’s pre-health professional programs are considered one of the best in the nation with a 10-year cumulative acceptance rate to medical schools that are two times better than average. There are 12 players on the current roster who are either majoring or considering majoring in the pre-health program.

“It’s about finding the right fit for the school then we find the right fit for the program,” Melsted said. “That’s been our success. If we find the kid who is going to be a fit for both things then they are going to thrive here. That’s been our success. The magic of Augustana is that it’s a great place for kids to compete in the highest level in Division II at a school with high academic standards. We pride ourselves on getting a unique student-athlete here. We try to go after kids who are top notch, academic kids, who are good softball players and who want to do well at both.” 

As far as the softball approach, Melsted traditionally has looked for players to hit the ball hard and far yet she has adapted over the past few years.

“My joke used to be we were never accused of being fast,” Melsted said. “We have changed a little bit. We are more balanced now. We are very athletic. We get players on base and get players moving.”

Augustana currently ranks ninth in Division II for triples with 11 and is in the top 40 for team batting average (.318). The team has 47 steals in 53 attempts with junior Kendall Cornick (11-for-12), freshman Mary Pardo (10-for-12), and sophomore Ashley Mickschl (9-for-11) leading the way.  

Replays From THE Spring Games

Augustana vs Texas-Tyler

Augustana vs Fairmont State

Augustana vs Northwood

Augustana vs Nyack

Augustana vs Gannon

Augustana vs Lock Haven

Augustana vs Merrimack

Augustana vs Urbana

Augustana vs Indiana University of Pennsylvania

Augustana vs Capital

Augustana vs Millersville

Augustana vs Caldwell

12U FAB 50 Club Rankings...On The Clock!

FloSports Now on Roku & Apple TV

Don’t underestimate the strength and talent of the 12U division. Every year we are continually impressed with this division and this year is no exception. 

Rising Star: 2021 Pitcher Kinsey Kackley, The Strikeout Artist

255 strikeouts was the goal.  Most would call 255 strikeouts a BHAG (Big Hairy Audacious Goal) for a high school pitcher.  Well, just 19 games in and two thirds through the regular season, Kinsey Kackley, from McKinney, Texas had to set a new goal, because she already surpassed 255.  

2022 Catcher Maci Bergeron Is Slugging Her Way To The Top

When does greatness begin? At birth? Once a person starts playing a sport? When he or she gets to high school? 

Northwestern Southpaw Danielle Williams Does It All

College Softball Is Here

A four-time FloSoftball High School All-American during her years at Amador Valley High School, Northwestern first-year Danielle Williams made the move to Evanston from Pleasanton, California as the Prep2Prep Sports 2018 North Coast Section Player of the Year and first-team All-North Coast Section.

Rising Star: Aspen Wesley, Future Mississippi State Ace

Aspen Wesley once had visions of playing college basketball. But when the No. 1 Neshoba Central (Mississippi) High Rockets pitcher got her first taste of pitching in the circle at age eight, softball became her new passion.

NPF 2019 Draft Selections Announced

The Chicago Bandits select Florida pitcher Kelly Barnhill as the No. 1 overall pick in the 2019 NPF draft. 

2019 NPF College Draft: How To Watch

It's that time of the year! Some of the best seniors in the nation are taking the next step to become professional athletes. National Pro Fastpitch will be holding its college draft at ACME Feed & Seed in Nashville. Who will be the No. 1 pick this year?

Jessie Harper, Dejah Mulipola, Alyssa Palomino Blast Arizona Record Books

The junior class for the Arizona Wildcats is on a mission to be one of the greatest collection of players not just in program history, but in the nation. Leading the way are a trio — Jessie Harper, Dejah Mulipola, and Alyssa Palomino-Cardoza — who have combined for 50 home runs this season, the most for any three players from one team.

2019 NPF Mock Draft

Historically, pitchers have been the top picks in the NPF draft but we predict this year will be different. Cowles Cup champs USSSA Pride and runner-up Chicago Bandits are stacked with elite pitchers and are in need of position players to strengthen their lineups and defense.

Rising Star: 2020 McNeese State-commit Aaliyah "Papi" Ortiz

Aaliyah Ortiz is better known as “Papi” or “Big Papi,” by her teammates and coaches. The nickname fits, not just because she shares the same last name as the Boston Red Sox star, but because of how her offensive impact on the softball field resembles that of David “Big Papi” Ortiz.