Spring Sports Recap
The NCU softball team has been in a building period since coach Joseph Waalk joined the team. The Rams, while continuing this process, are making big strides in both the Upper Midwest Athletic Conference (UMAC) and North Central history as well. Finishing the season with a record of 12-26 (3-16 in conference), the softball program tallied the most wins in program history, the most conference wins since 2013, and had the highest winning percentage in program history.
With no seniors and starting mostly freshmen, NCU was in an unique position to keep investing in its young players. “We grew as a young group, “ said Coach Waalk. “They started to learn how to play at this level and that most teams around them are all good in their own right. What we loved seeing, was the fact that they know they can win, but it just takes time, effort, and focus to get to the level that we all what to be at.” The team had a couple highlights over the season including a six game win streak towards the beginning of the season with four wins over Maranatha Baptist University followed by two over Finlandia University.
The Rams worked well together as a cohesive, young unit with some standout players. Emma Cochran, freshman from Chewelah, Washington, earned the UMAC sportsmanship award along with being selected for the NCCAA All Region Team. Cochran had a batting average of .390 tallying 21 runs and 13 RBI’s on the season. Playing mostly in the outfield, Cochran added in 27 putouts with a fielding percentage of .875.
Also selected for the NCCAA All Region Team was Hosanna Gattle, freshman out of Merrit Island, Florida. Gattle played as pitcher for the majority of NCU’s games. She threw 51 strikeouts and won five games for the Rams. At the plate, Gattle had a batting average of .507 with 16 runs and 17 RBI’s.
The team returns all of its starters and the roster as a whole for the upcoming season as well as adding in several new recruits. Waalk will continue his expectations “…to take another step forward and being more competitive on the field and build pride within our student athletes” as the Rams look to keep building this competitive softball program.
If anything was against this year’s NCU baseball team, it was the weather. Nine of the Ram’s first 14 games were postponed due to muddy fields and stormy skies. However, the team persisted through the unknowns and “set a solid foundation to build on” according to head coach David Babcock. “We had high expectations with one of our most talented teams in a long time,” said Babcock. The interesting season and cold weather bonded the young team into a competitive program that finished sixth in the UMAC, the best conference finish in program history. The Rams also had the best start in their history winning six of their first 11 games and finished with a record of 7-18.
Because of their young status, NCU also had multiple players receive their first wins on the pitching mound, and first career homeruns. Individually, Coach Babcock noted a lot of players contributed to the successful season. “We had a handful of players that either had breakout years or showed great improvement from the previous years,” said Babcock. “A lot of guys showed amazing unselfishness throughout the season having to be in roles that they didn’t necessarily see themselves being in before the season started.” More specifically, Babcock remarked at the season catcher Jack Parker had. Playing with an injury, Parker finished the season with a .315 batting average, ten runs, one homerun, and 18 RBI’s.
Parker received the UMAC Honorable Mention Award along with teammate Kyle Huerth. Christian Rodriguez received First Team All-UMAC for his 12 runs, 12 RBI’s, and 49 strikeouts at the mound. And winning the UMAC Sportsmanship Award for the Rams was Blaine Alden.
The roots of this team goes all the way back to the fall during FCA (Fellowship of Christian Athletes), which was led by Coach Babcock and his father, assistant coach Paul Babcock. A few members of the baseball team gave their lives to Christ helping to center the Ram’s around God and grow closer as a unit in the right direction.
The Rams competed with several good teams throughout the season regardless of the young players. That said, “the future is bright from Rams baseball,” said Babcock. With most of the roster returning, NCU has eight committed players coming into the 2022-23 season that almost doubles the Rams current pitching staff. Babcock has high expectations for his team and is excited to watch the season play out. “We are for sure a team to watch, not just next year but, for the foreseeable future.”
MEN’S AND WOMEN’S TRACK AND FIELD
Almost tripling the size of their team this season, the men’s and women’s track and field team had quite the seasons, compared to previous years. Now standing at a combined 28 athletes, NCU scored a combined 90 points at the UMAC meet. The men scored 60 points themselves, which is up 59 points from the previous year. Coach Paul Theorin had high expectations for his Rams and in order to best prepare them for the ending conference meet, Theorin scheduled some “pretty tough” meets against Division I and II schools. These harder opponents provided top tier competition that ensured their readiness for UMAC teams.
Theorin recognized the hard work each person put in throughout the season. “Everyone gave 100% effort all season long…We’re in this spot today because of them.” There were three individuals that stepped up big for the Rams in every meet but specifically the UMAC championships. First, Kayden Sund placed first in the men’s high jump with a height of 1.93m which gives him the high jump record at NCU. To Theorin’s delight, Sund still has one more year and will return in the spring. Long time legend Elizabeth Lofstad completed her senior in quite a fashion placing first in the 1500m run with a time of 5:18:35. Lofstad received many first place finishes over her four years and many UMAC honors which makes her “the best long distance runner in the conference” in Theorin’s mind. Finally, Derek Burgin aided in the men’s score by placing second in the 400m dash, seventh in the 200m dash, and helped the 4x400m relay place second. At anchor, Burgin started 40 meters behind the second and third place teams when he began his portion of the relay. Burgin passed both these teams around the 200m and led the Rams to a second place finish.
Sund, Lofstad, and Burgin all received UMAC All Conference awards. Serena Lanes and Jackson Omeja both received the UMAC Sportsmanship award.
With the season at a close, NCU loses just five seniors and is estimated to bring in 25 recruits, almost doubling their team of 28. Theorin says this upcoming recruiting class will add depth to the throwers and will add immediate impact to both the distance and sprints. “We’re coming into next season with a ton of momentum,” said Theorin, “The athletes are pumped about next year and that’s something to build off on…we’re really excited about the future of the track & field program.”
The NCU men’s lacrosse team faced all sorts of emotions and challenges coming back from an almost three year hiatus. From finding a head coach last minute to having an almost completely new roster mixed with players of different experience levels, the Rams tried to keep their season alive as long as possible with a mantra of “We just want to play” encouraging them along the way.
NCU faced some difficult opponents both in the state of Minnesota and outside. Although the Rams finished with a record of 0-9, they built a foundation for following teams. Freshman captain Jackson Smith was an important player for NCU, both in his technique and IQ of the game. Isaac Griffin, Corey Evers, and Freddy Van Tiem will be valuable returning players for their experience and athleticism on the field. Senior attacker Jaydon Crim will be sorely missed for NCU. Crim had a total of 13 goals and two assists in his three seasons at North Central, one of those seasons being a sum of two games due to the pandemic.
The men’s lacrosse team is looking forward to the off season to prepare and train for a more competitive 2022-23 season.
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