UNO’s softball senior duo pack a punch
May 9th, 2014
Omaha, NE – As other Summit League softball teams are competing in the post season conference tournament this weekend, the University of Nebraska at Omaha softball teamâ€™s season is over.[audio:https://kvnonews.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/0508-final.mp3]
Due to NCAA rules that governed UNOs transfer to Division-I, UNO is not eligible to compete in post season tournaments or championships until the 2015-2016 season.
But this setback has not kept the Mavericks from turning heads these past two years. Last year, UNO finished the season 36â€“7 including 14-3 in the Summit League. There was no doubt that they would have been invited to the Texas A&M bracket of the NCAA tournament in College Station, had they been eligible. This year the Mavs finished with a record of 33-16 overall and third in the Summit League, at 12-6. Currently the Mavs are rated 70th in the NCAA women’s softball Rating Percentage Index (RPI), between Big Ten teams Ohio State and Purdue.
Head Coach Jeanne Scarpello said the foundation of this yearâ€™s team has been first-baseman Amber Lutmer and ace-pitcher Dana Elsasser. Elsasser had a record of 27-7 this year with a 1.72 ERA. She ended her Maverick career with a whopping 40 consecutive innings without allowing a run.
â€œWe threw her every inning of that last weekend and we did it for tribute to her, for respect for her,â€ Scarpello said. â€œIt was really difficult watching her throw her last batter because she knew that was it. Weâ€™ve always went to postseason so you donâ€™t know when it is your last batter. We actually had to call time and go out to the mound because you could see the tears flowing.â€
When talking about the last batter Elsasser faced in her career Coach Scarpello took a moment to collect her thoughts.
â€œThat was very emotional for all of our kids, in fact the whole infield came in and they had tears too,â€ Scarpello said. â€œSo to finish it up with a strikeout was fitting. I said the only two ways Dana would go out was with a strikeout or a ground ball back at her. I think this whole experience for her meant a lot, the program did too, and she said she couldnâ€™t see herself play for another program. So for me Iâ€™m proud of it because she is a great kid.â€
Scarpello called Lutmerâ€™s power, a game-changer. Lutmer hit a Summit League leading 17 home-runs this year and she also broke the UNO career record for most home-runs, with 51.
â€œIt changes the whole culture when you lose players like that,â€ Scarpello said. â€œItâ€™s tough to replace them because itâ€™s not just their ability, their work ethic, the competitiveness and the drive. You lose two big leaders like that you just hope you have someone to stand up next to make sure the character and everything is there too.â€
Lutmer said the highlight of this year was beating Nebraska in Lincoln this year, 3-2.
â€œThat has always been one of our goals, even when we played them as a Division-II team, it was always â€˜Beat Nebraskaâ€™, â€˜Beat Nebraska,â€™ and last year we came so close to beating them,â€ Lutmer said. â€œAfter losing the first time 10-0, then to be able to come back and beat them the second time we played it was definitely the topping to my senior year.â€
Scarpello has a big dry erase board in her office where her teamâ€™s roster is listed. After each season she erases the graduating seniors and adds the names of the incoming recruits. She said the hardest part of coaching is saying goodbye to those players.
â€œItâ€™s hard you work with these kids for four years,â€ Scarpello said. â€œYou see them develop and mature physically and emotionally. So it is such an abrupt ending for them, for their career, and itâ€™s an abrupt ending for coaches too because we see them day in and day out, then all the sudden you donâ€™t see them.â€
UNO wonâ€™t be playing any more games this season, but Scarpello said her job is just beginning. The search for the next Dana Elsasser and Amber Lutmer begins.
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