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College of St,. Scholastica softball coach Rilee Dawson knew exactly what sophomore third baseman Josie Fourre was experiencing as she strode to the plate against Northland College last weekend in a performance that overshadowed the Saints overall play in a 12-1, 13-5 sweep.
Four, who is from Albany, MN., hit two home runs in her last two at-bats in the first game to seal the 5-inning 12-1 romp. The second game started and Fourre homered in her first two times up to ignite another blowout, 13-5. The second game was tougher, because Northland took a 4-0 lead against Saints pitcher Olivia Howe before the Saints came roaring back.
Fourre’s home runs in four consecutive at-bats tied for second place in the NCAA Division III record book.
Second? How could anybody hit more than four consecutive home runs?
Right there, in the third base coaches box waving her around, Rilee Dawson could read the intensity in Fourre’s mind, because nobody other than Dawson holds the NCAA D-III record of six consecutive home runs.
“When she hit her third in a row, it occurred to me,” said Dawson. “I thought, ‘How cool would it be if someone from our program broke the record?’ “
Fourre grounded out in her trip to the plate that might have been her fifth homer in a row, but she hit another one in her next at-bat. For the four games in the two doubleheaders against Northland, Fourre hit six home runs, and it might have been more, but both games were curtailed after five innings. Her personal hot streak couldn’t have come st a better time, with a huge rematch against Wisconsin-Superior scheduled for Thursday to start the double-elimination UMAC softball tournament, at Bethany Lutheran.
Fourre was named Wells Fargo Female Performer of the Week because in eight games last week, she went 13-for-20, a .650 clip, with 17 RBIs and 13 runs scored. Amazingly, the sophomore third baseman does not lead the Saints in hitting. That goes to pitcher Maggie Schley, a senior who plays first base when not in the circle, with a .431 batting average, 5 home runs and 38 RBIs. Fourre is second at .394 with 7 homers and 26 RBIs, followed by pitcher-first baseman Olivia Howe ate .374, outfielder Nicole Anders .340, and left-fielder Hannah Thul at .318.
With a batting order featuring that kind of hitting, and the stabilizing of the nearly identical pitching success of Schley, a senior from Irondale, and Howe, a freshman from Forest Lake, it’s no wonder the Saints went 7-1 in the eight games last week, losing only to first-place Bethany Lutheran, 7-2, immediately after ending Bethany’s bid for an undefeated UMAC season with a 5-1 Saints victory in the opener.
St. Scholastica’s victory at Bethany Lutheran and closing sweeps left the Saints third, one game behind UWS, placing a renewed focus on the parity at the top of the UMAC season race. Consider that early in the season, Wisconsin-Superior shocked the Saints by sweeping a doubleheader in the Bridge Battle, and a week ago, when both were 12-0 and tied for first, Bethany swept the Yellowjackets 5-4 and 4-2 to settle the race. That puts extra emphasis on the Saints-Yellowjackets tournament opener, and means one of those two will be advancing in the winner’s bracket, while the other will be battling like crazy out of the loser’s bracket.
Shortly after sweeping the second doubleheader from Northland — the final season games serving as the home-field debut of the snow-plagued Saints — Dawson was asked to go back to her playing days, when she came from Eveleth to play for Jen Walters at St. Scholastica. She was a good hitter, and admits she never went up to keep the ball in play, preferring to swing hard every time she swung.
She recalled the Saints were on the busride down to Martin Luther for a three-game crossover competition, where they played Marin Luther, Bethany Lutheran and Presentation in two days.
“We were watching the movie ’61’ about the race between Roger Maris and Mickey Mantle in 1961, when Maris hit 61 home runs,” Dawson said. “It was 0-0, and as I went up to bat, late in the game, I said, ‘I’m going to end this.’ Then I hit a home run, so I actually called it. I hit another one my last time up, and we beat Martin Luther 3-2. Next game, we beat Bethany Lutheran 11-3, and I was batting behind Erica Bond. She hit two home runs and I hit three against Bethany. Then I hit one more my first time up against Presentation, and we won 10-1.
“We had a good team, and we won the league title and the league playoff, but we didn’t have the automatic spot in the NCAA regional, so no matter how well we did, our season ended.”
Dawson hit 10 home runs for the year, but hit .492 for the season, and had a .447 career batting average. So when Fourre went off on her home run barrage, Dawson could relate.
“It’s surreal,” Dawson said. “You really do get in a zone, and you’re seeing every pitch well and swinging hard and right on it.”
When her playing days ended, she immediately jumped at the chance to become an assistant to Walters, and she did that for eight years, before Walters took the UMD head coaching job, and the St. Scholastica job opened up. “It was no secret I wanted it,” said.
“I have to say, it really isn’t surprising what Josie has done. She’s put in a lot of work, not just on home runs, but on hitting singles to drive in runs. She works incredibly hard and she’s very intelligent, both in the classroom and on the field. She’s 100 percent focused in practice and always working on something. She’s never good enough, in her mind.”
In that regard, this season has been a departure for the Saints, who hadn’t lost the UMAC regular season title in over a decade, and have won all but two UMAC tournament titles. Just like Dawson said, her players think that anything less than the title is not good enough. And if things go according to form, Josie Fourre will be one of the Saints circling the bases, and Riley Dawson will be the one in the third-base coaches box, waving her arm in windmill fashion to bring her runners home.
Walters, Bulldogs in NSIC Tournament
UMD’s women’s softball team swept Sioux Falls 8-6 and 10-5 last Sunday to break the Northern Sun record set three years ago with the Bulldogs 22nd victory against 8 losses in league play. At 31-18 overall, the Bulldogs face Concordia in the Northern Sun tournament at Rochester this weekend.
The Bulldogs trailed Sioux Falls 6-4 in the seventh inning of the first game, but closed it up to 6-5 before coach Jen Walters gave Jerssica Bren the green light on a 3-and-0 pitch and she hit a 3-run home run to center field for the walk-off 8-6 victory.