Finlandia softball to face Whitewater

HANCOCK – Last year, with the Finlandia softball team making an earnest bid for the school’s first appearance in an NCAA Tournament, the Selection Show filled the room with tension, drama, and ultimately, heartbreak as the Lions gathered together in a dorm lounge to hear a mysterious committee decide their fate.

This year, the proceedings were decidedly more relaxed as FU guaranteed itself a spot in the Tournament with a dominating run through the three-day Great South Athletic Conference tourney in April. All that was left for Monday morning was to hear the seed and opponent for the Whitewater Regional starting Thursday.

As it turns out, the Lions drew the No. 8 seed and a first-round game with top-seeded Wisconsin-Whitewater in the double-elimination tournament.

Now, it is time to go to work.

“It was a little anti-climactic,” FU softball coach Shawn Hendrickson said. “Especially when you compare to last year. And to be honest, I expected (the No. 8 seed). I thought that was what we would do. It is out first time in (the NCAA Tournament) and this is part of the process of proving yourself.

“Our goal all year long has been to win the championship. Is that realistic? I don’t know. But to do so you have to beat everyone, so seed doesn’t really matter much then. We will play anyone. We can certainly play with anyone.”

Given three days to prepare before the 10 a.m. game Thursday against the regional site’s host, Hendrickson will have his team on a similar routine as he did leading up the GSAC tournament.

With five freshman starters – including the GSAC Freshman of the Year in Kristen Rose – and just one senior, Hendrickson prefers to have the team focusing on the little details they need to execute rather than any opponent-specific game-plan.

“We have been doing it that way all season and I’m not going to change now,” Hendrickson said. “We have such a young team, but they have really impressed me. For experiencing most of this stuff, this pressure for the first time, they really executed (at the GSAC tournament) and really did the small things well you need to do to win games.”

Focusing on internal execution may be the wisest course as the Whitewater lineup can certainly intimidate on paper.

In winning 32 games this season, the Warhawks enjoyed seven different batters with over a .300 average on 100 at-bats, finishing with a team-average of .345.

Whitewater outscored opponents by 131 runs in 43 games.

To be fair, Finlandia outscored opponents by 161 runs in 31 games. The two teams shared no common opponents.

“I know this, (Whitewater) will be a very disciplined softball team doing all the small things right,” Hendrickson said. “We have to control what we can control, and not worry about what they are doing. It is the same for any opponent. As I have told the girls, whether a team is 0-24 or your NCAA Tournament opponent, you cannot give anybody extra outs and you have to capitalize on your chances.”