Saint Martin’s University Softball Team Reflects On Historic Season

saint martins softball
The reigning GNAC freshman of the year, Samantha Munger was one of the top offensive threats for Saint Martin’s University softball, along with winning GNAC pitcher of the year for her efforts on the mound in 2013.


By Tom Rohrer

all star ford sponsorIn collegiate sports, it’s all about combining talent with mental toughness.

Competing against high level athletes requires an appropriate mixture.  A lapse in focus can quickly lead to a devastating mistake and a loss.

At the beginning of the season, the Saint Martin’s University softball team was 3-4 following a quick tour of the Hawaiian Islands for some early non-conference matchups.

However, the Saint’s  would eventually turn it around in a huge way, winning 38 of their next 50 games en route to a number 17 national ranking, an appearance in the NCAA Division II Tournament, and the school’s first NCAA tournament victory, a 2-1 victory over Grand Canyon on Friday, May 10.

saint martins softball
The reigning GNAC freshman of the year, Samantha Munger was one of the top offensive threats for Saint Martin’s University softball, along with winning GNAC pitcher of the year for her efforts on the mound in 2013.

Though Saint Martin’s would eventually lose to Humboldt State 5-3 two days after their historic victory, the season could justifiably be called the best in school history, and with only four seniors graduating and a host of high caliber players returning, the future is certainly bright for the program.

“I think every team believes that they will go on to the next stage but when the season starts reality hits you,” said fourth year head coach Rick Noren, a Tumwater High School graduate. “We had expectations of doing well, but after the Hawaii trip, I tried to lower those expectations.  We responded in a big way, worked really hard and everything just sort of came together.”

“When your season ends and you can’t play anymore, emotions hit you, the seniors leaving hits you,” Noren continued. “But just from the conversations we’ve had with the girls, if the season started tomorrow, they would say let’s go play. They’re looking forward next year.”

The Saints were led in large part by a potent offensive attack (.308 team batting average) that saw ten players combine for 44 home runs and 102 doubles split across 13 position players.

Leading this offensive charge was the sophomore/junior duo of Sam Munger and Lacey McGladrey, both of whom earned First Team All-GNAC  honors.  McGladrey, a second baseman from Bothell High School, led the team in total bases (120), homeruns (8), slugging percentage (.619), runs (65), doubles (17, stolen bases (18), on base percentage (.459) and walks (22).  Not to be outdone, Munger (Cascade High), who was also the GNAC pitcher of the year, posted offensive team highs in two hits (84), batting average (.426), and pitching highs in strike outs (111), wins (24) and innings pitched (214.1) among many other categories.

The two players are foundational athletes for the program, and will be a huge key to the Saints success in 2014.

“I think when you have two players like that, and we have a roster full of other talented players, that gives the entire team confidence,” said Noren, whose wife Leanne is an assistant coach. “The fact that they both will be back next year is huge for our team.  Their experience, talent and leadership will be relied upon.”

Munger, who played select team ball with McGladrey in high school, says she looks up to her teammate as a role model.

“She is such a great player and I kind of look up to her and follow in her footsteps,” Munger said of McGladrey.  “I want to work to be more like her and it’s just really nice to have her be there for me and the team.”

saint martins softball
Lacey McGladrey (center #4) is congratulated by her teammates during a 2013 game, a season that will go down as the best in Saint Martin’s University softball history. For her tremendous efforts at the plate and in the field, McGladrey was named GNAC player of the year.

The high praise was returned from McGladrey to her talented teammate.

“She is such a strong player in every aspect of the game,” McGladrey said of Munger.  “She’s accomplished so much already but isn’t satisfied, and seeing her grow has been a great experience.”

Both McGladrey and Munger are quick to cite their coach’s influence as a reason for both personal and team success.

“I think the mental toughness he always speaks about really changed this team and I know it did for me individually,” said Munger, the 2012 GNAC freshman of the year.  “When we faced that adversity early in the year, we just kept working and kept following his influence.”

“He allows us to have a really aggressive approach, whether it’s hitting or just your attitude about the game,” said McGladrey, who was named the 2013 GNAC player of the year and earned NFCA First Team All-West Region and Darktronics First Team All-West Region. “We don’t go out there second guessing ourselves and thinking about what happened before.”

Noren was impressed that his team, comprised mostly of underclassman, was able to battle through adversity towards success.

“Those four seniors were great and did great things for this program, but I was just so impressed by that sophomore class in particular,” said Noren, who led the Saints to the GNAC regular season and conference tournament championships. “We needed them to perform at regionals and they did, and that kind of leadership will be huge for us the next two years.”

Joining the team next year will be the biggest and most acclaimed recruiting class in the school’s history, which Noren credits to the success and exposure obtained by this year’s team.

“It’s nice to see if you’re successful, that you get more interest, particularly from out of state,” Noren said. “They will fit in nicely, and we will expect a lot from them.”

Until the start of the 2014 season, both players and coach can reflect on a job well done.

“It’s been a lot of fun, and we got tons of support from the university and community,” Noren said. “People noticed and it’s been fun for my wife and I to come back where we grew up and turn the program around.”

“It was a great season.  I love my team, love what we did, and am looking forward to next year,” Munger said.  Unlike all of Saint Martin’s opponents, who may be part of yet another special season for SMU in 2014.

For more information on Saint Martin’s University softball team, click here.

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