The 1996 Beloit College softball team, under head coach Ron Splan, remains the only squad in the program’s 32-season history to win a Midwest Conference Championship.
Paced by an offense that hit .329 as a team with 51 doubles (eighth in NCAA Division III) and 39 stolen bases and pitching that recorded three times as many strikeouts as walks while allowing a .237 opponents’ batting average, the Buccaneers shared the MWC North Division crown before an undefeated run through the MWC Tournament to capture the title.
On the mound Jamie Cassette handled things while starting 25 of the 26 games, recording five shutouts while posting a 2.06 ERA and striking out a Beloit-record 133 batters. Cassette, a 2011 Beloit College Athletic Hall of Honor inductee, earned All-MWC honors that season and again the next while finishing her career with a team-record 58 victories.
Offensively there were a number of players who shined bright. Second baseman Kathy Selck led the team with a .473 average, still the third-highest mark in school history, 24 runs scored and a .513 on-base percentage. First baseman Carrie Bieniek, a 2009 Hall of Honor inductee and arguably the best hitter in Beloit’s Softball history, batted .395 with a team-leading 21 RBIs, three home runs and nine doubles. Outfielder Becky Williams hit .380 and also had nine doubles while third baseman Lauri Krull hit .356. Lori Tilkins provided the speed on the bases, stealing 14 while hitting .299. Shortstop Christina Pape, a 2010 Hall of Honor inductee, hit .288 and was second on the team with two home runs.
Coming off an 18-7 season in 1995 when they shared the MWC North title for the second of three straight seasons, the Bucs open 1996 in Pensacola, Florida, with a 4-3 record. Back up north they found their rhythm and lost two in a row only once. After a 5-4 loss at Ripon College on April 26, the team never lost again and finished the season on a six-game winning streak, including winning a doubleheader at Lawrence on the last weekend of the regular season to share the North Division crown and qualify for the Tournament.
Included in that season-ending run was the three-game run at the Conference Tournament that saw them defeat the top two teams in the MWC South Division – Coe and Monmouth – by a combined 27-6 score while leading all 27 innings they played and having no less than a five-run lead in 14 of those 27 innings. The Championship-clinching 6-0 win over Monmouth College that featured a three-run first inning that was more than enough for Cassette, who struck out seven while allowing just three hits and one walk.
Coach Splan probably summed it up best when he said “These really are good kids. We play good defense. We hit the ball well. We really came together as a team, especially after the loss at Ripon. It was great to cap off the season with a championship.”
UP AHEAD IN BUCCANEER ATHLETICS
Go to www.beloit.edu/bucs to get the entire schedule and catch up on last week’s results.