AT BAT: Sophomore Natalie McGuire swings at a fastball. The Forester softball squad is currently 18-18 in the Crossroads League and 21-23 overall. (Photo provided)

Sitting in fifth in the Crossroads League with the top three schools – Marian University, Taylor University, and Indiana Wesleyan University– all receiving votes, the Forester softball team is aware of the task at hand.

Finishing out the regular season Apr. 25 by sweeping a two-game series against Spring Arbor University 5-4 and 17-8, the Foresters dished out 21 hits while boasting a .618 hitting percentage. The wins featured the hitting prowess of junior Katie DePew, who finished 4-for-4 at the plate, as well as sophomore Natalie McGuire, who cleared the bases in the top of the sixth with a grand slam. On the pitcher’s mound, junior Emily Puterbaugh and sophomore Lea Buckenmyer both registered wins.

Enduring a rough start at the beginning of the season, the Foresters have grinded out a 21-23 overall record, improving their 6-12 overall record from the end of March.

Head coach Doug Gower said that his squad is striving to make a return trip to Nationals.

“Our goal for this season is to go back to Nationals,” Gower said. “In order to achieve this goal, the team must win the conference tournament.”

After winning five games on the road, the Foresters suffered a painful set of losses to Saint Francis Apr. 24. The Foresters dropped the first game 3-2, with an almost identical score, 4-2, in the second. In the nightcap loss, senior Cristin Carter stole home in impressive fashion.

Transitioning to the postseason, junior Ariel Sheets said that one of the team’s goals is to focus on preparing both physically and mentally for the conference tournament.

Buckenmyer added that the team is seeking to compete on both the offensive and defensive fronts.

“As we wrap up the season, we want to compete in every at-bat on offense and in every pitch on defense,” she said. “Even if we make an error or strike out, we’ll play a better game if we are all trying to go out and do our best in every moment of the game.”

Gower said that even while wrapping up the regular season, the team still has room for improvement. One improvement area he named was more consistent hitting.

“Even as this season comes to a close, the team has some improvements that they are looking to make as they move into next season,” he said.

Buckenmyer agreed with Gower but added that better communication would be another improvement on which the team is looking to make.

With memories of reaching the final round of last year’s tournament championship, the team is ready to battle for a return trip with hopes of taking the tourney crown. Tourney play begins Apr. 29.

“I think we are all looking forward to how the end of the season is going to play out,” Sheets said. “When the tournament rolls around, it’s like a different atmosphere. Everything that has happened prior to the first tournament game is irrelevant because at this point, anything is possible. As long as we all stick together and fight to win as a team, we will go far.”