One positive result from the awful "Spring" weather we had in Minnesota, was the expanded MIAC Baseball and Softball Playoffs. Instead of the typical eight teams, this year a total of 18 teams were able to enjoy a postseason experience in one-year-only experiments to try and end a challenging season on a high note.
In short, the experiment was a success, and the increased number of teams starts a MIAC Media Blog look at some of the most impressive numbers from a couple of crazy weekends on the diamonds of North Mankato and Minnetonka.
MIAC Playoffs - By the Numbers
18 - The total number of MIAC softball and baseball teams to participate in the 2013 Playoffs. All 12 softball teams were involved, and six baseball teams made the field as well.
23 - The number of games played in the two tournaments. Amazingly, Gustavus (with some help from Hamline and Carleton) provided live stats for all 18 softball games, with live video for the final six. All five baseball games had live video courtesy of the MIAC and Webcast America (with MIAC Media's Mike Gallagher as part of the broadcast team) and live stats as well courtesy of host school Hamline.
2 - Two team champions resulted from a combined six days and 23 games. Both the St. Thomas baseball and softball teams supplemented their regular-season championships with postseason titles.
6 - The total number of walk-off wins in the MIAC postseason. The Augsburg baseball team walked off Saint Mary's in the 11th inning of a quarterfinal game, only be walked off on a bottom-of-the-ninth home run by Concordia's Devin Johnson a day later as the Cobbers reached their first title game. The softball playoffs had four games end with a winning run crossing the plate - two via home runs. St. Catherine capped a 13-12 slugfest with Macalester on an Alyssa McKee walk-off double. St. Olaf and Bethel both advanced to the double-elimination portion of the tournament with walk-off wins in their final game of pool play. The Oles got a bases-loaded, walk-off sacrifice fly to beat Hamline in a thriller. Meanwhile, Bethel emerged from pool play on a game-winning, two-out, three-run home run by Megan Matson. St. Thomas advanced to the title game thanks to a walk-off home run Saturday by Emily Gregory in the bottom of the eighth inning.
0 - Postseason wins in the history of the Bethel baseball program before the Royals scored a historic 4-2 victory over Saint John's in the quarterfinals of the baseball playoffs.
3 - Home runs in two games by Carleton softball star Jenny Ramey. Her offensive output nearly led the Knights to the four-team, double-elimination tournament. The No. 9 seeded Knights beat No. 4 Saint Mary's, 11-2, then suffered a heart-breaking 7-6 loss to Gustavus to end their remarkable postseason appearance.
7 - Consecutive strikeouts by St. Thomas starting pitcher Colin Wendinger in the MIAC Baseball Playoff championship game. In fact, Wendinger's run only ended because he was removed as the Tommies approached the title game by committee. The UST sophomore struck out eight batters in four brilliant no-hit innings, allowing just a pair of first-inning walks. Wendinger's breaking ball was tremendous, often fooling the aggressive Cobber lineup. Another fun number regarding the UST starter - he's only lost once since his sophomore year of high school.
262 - Total pitches thrown - combined - by Bethel starter Matt Rowley and Saint John's starter Connor Cline in a MIAC Baseball Playoff quarterfinal. Both went the distance, with Rowley (129 pitches) narrowly outdueling Cline (133 pitches) in a marvelous duel.
.667 - Jenna Hoffman's batting average, which was just one of her remarkable numbers in the tournament. The Tommie shortstop had four home runs, three doubles, eight runs scored and seven RBI in five MIAC Playoff games to earn All-Tournament and MVP honors.
15 - Comeback wins for the Augsburg baseball team this season, with No. 15 coming in their 5-4, 11-inning win over Saint Mary's in the MIAC Baseball Playoff quarterfinals. The Auggies were down 4-0, which meant the victory was also their fifth comeback win from a deficit of three runs or more. In that comeback win, there were also an astounding eight batters hit by pitch - five by Saint Mary's pitchers and three by Augsburg
0 - Games that went the regulation 7 innings during Saturday of the MIAC Softball Playoffs. One of the games went to extra innings and was decided in the eighth, while the other three had the eight-run mercy rule invoked in the sixth inning.
2 - The number of games that separated second and ninth place in the MIAC standings. Two teams tied at 11-9, five tied at .500 (either 10-10 or 9-9) and another was 9-11. Parity? I think so.
2013 - The year that saw below-freezing temperatures in April and snow in May to radically alter the baseball and softball landscape, but also the year that saw the most MIAC softball and baseball teams engage in wildly entertaining postseason tournaments in history.
By the numbers, we're all hoping for higher temperatures in 2014 and a return to normalcy for MIAC baseball and softball. However, the teams, coaches and student-athletes showed incredible resiliency and fortitude this season, and the expanded Playoffs were an excellent celebration and reminder of the true spirit of MIAC athletics.