The American Rivers Conference Softball Preseason Coaches' Poll was released today and the Luther College softball team has been picked to win the 2019 A-R-C championship. The Norse received 61 points in the league's preseason coaches' poll.
Earlier today the Norse were ranked No. 10 in the National Fastpitch Coaches Association first Division III top-25 national poll.
Five-time Conference Coach of the Year Renae Hartl, returns nine letter winners from last year's team that posted an overall record of 43-11 and finished third at the NCAA III National Softball Championships. The Norse qualified for the national tournament after capturing a third consecutive conference tournament championship and seventh in the past nine years.
Coach Hartl returns just two positions players, but has perhaps one of her deepest pitching staffs during her 18-year career.
Returning behind the dish is senior Addy Pender (Johnston, Iowa). Pender has started every game behind the dish the past two year. Last year, she batted .318 with 34 RBI and finished tied for the team lead for home runs with five. She was also named third team NFCA all-Midwest Region.
Senior Blake Banowetz (Bellevue, Iowa/Marquette Catholic) started all 54 games last season at third base. She was named the Super Regional Most Outstanding Positional Player. She has batted .311 with 56 RBI during her career.
Senior pitcher Samantha Bratland (Spring Grove, Minn.) is a two-time NFCA All-American. She has been named Luther's Pitcher of the Year the past three seasons. During her career she has posted a record of 70-12 with an ERA of 1.54. Her 70 wins currently ranks second on Luther's all-time list. She also ranks second all-time for career strikeouts with 515 and third for career shutouts with 19.
Sophomore pitcher Courtney Cooper (Lansing, Iowa/Kee High) who was voted Luther's Rookie of the Year, posted a record of 13-5-1 with an ERA of 1.72. She was named the Super Regional Most Outstanding Pitcher after leading the Norse to a 10-4 victory over St. Thomas in the championship game.