By KIRK HARDCASTLE
NIACC sports information director
MASON CITY - The NIACC softball team is off to a fast start offensively in the young 2018 season.
NIACC (5-3 overall) averages 13.125 runs per game in its first eight games, including a 25-1 win over RCTC and a 27-0 win over Century College.
The 13.125 runs per game leads all NJCAA Divison II teams. The Lady Trojans also rank first in NJCAA Divison II in hits per game (13.6) and doubles per game (4.4).
"Our kids have really bought in to what we are trying to do offensively," first-year NIACC coach Dan Gratz said. "Our ball efficiency has been good - meaning we are not swinging at very many pitches out of the zone, leading to a ton of hard hit balls.
"The players have a great plan at the plate and each player is focused on being their best self."
The Lady Trojans also rank sixth in NJCAA Division II in overall batting average (.462), sixth in on-base percentage (.531) and seventh in slugging percentage (.674). They rank fifth with 35 doubles and eighth with 37 stolen bases.
Sophomore Morgan Thesing-Ritter is hitting .607 with two doubles, two triples, 10 RBIs and 14 stolen bases. Also for the Lady Trojans, sophomore Courtney Johannes is hitting .519 with eight doubles and 13 RBIs.
"We have a group of players working to get the ball in play to use their speed," Gratz said, "and a group of players working to hit the ball out on every swing.
"One thing all of our players do is run the bases extremely well. They trust us coaches and go until we stop them."
NIACC, which returns to action Friday in a doubleheader, at Southeast CC in Beatrice, Neb., is slated to play 14 games on its spring break trip with games in Nebraska, Kansas, Missouri and Illinois. The Lady Trojans' home opener is scheduled for March 24 against Northeast CC.
Gratz, who was the director of softball operations at the University of Iowa last season, said he likes what he sees out of his team through the first eight games.
"The start of the season has been fun," he said. "The only thing I have been a little surprised by is how much our players are trusting what we wanting them to do offensively.
"I knew coming in that it was going to be a struggle to gain their trust as we implemented some things that are a little bit different than the norm."
NIACC'S 2018 season (5-3)
NIACC 13, Viterbo University 12
Viterbo University 9, NIACC 6
NIACC 25, RCTC 1
Southeastern 9, NIACC 6
NIACC 15, Bryant & Stratton (Wis.) 7
Southeastern 12, NIACC 0
NIACC 27, Century College 0
NIACC 13, Century College 1
Doubles - Johannes 8, Katie Chapman 5, Sherwood 5.
Triples - Thesing-Ritter 2.
Home runs - Johannes 1, Sherwood 1, Laxson 1.
RBIs - Carlson 14, Johannes 13, Sherwood 12.
Stolen bases - Thesing-Ritter 14, Carlson 7, Shelby Low 6.
Wins - Johannes 3-1.
Innings pitched - Johannes 18 2/3.
Strikeouts - Johannes 25.