Although Muhlenberg’s fall athletic teams find themselves toward the end of their regular seasons and have fought and clawed their way through challenging opponents, other teams on campus have been putting a lot of effort behind closed doors toward preparing themselves for their respective campaigns. Two of those teams are the softball and baseball squads.
NCAA Division III teams have a limited off-season compared to Division I and Division II programs. Muhlenberg’s athletic teams are allowed 15 official team practices and one day of competition against another school(s). In contrast, schools at other levels are only capped at hours per week, not total sessions. These rules may be changing soon, but for now, the Mules must remain eager to play the cards they have been dealt.
The Muhlenberg softball team traveled to Bloomsburg University for their fall ball matchup, playing two nine-inning games against the Division II foe. “Overall, our play day went well considering we were playing against a DII team,” said Lauren Siesky ‘26, pitcher and outfielder for the Mules. “It was tougher competition than most teams we usually play, and we kept up with them throughout both games. We learned that we have to keep our energy level at a maintainable level throughout the game instead of starting with too much energy where we can’t sustain it.”
It is crucial for teams to play against high-level competition during the one chance they get in their various off-seasons to prepare for the official season in the best way possible. Another meaningful aspect of the fall for this team is incorporating their new teammates into the team culture. “The freshmen have integrated fast into our team dynamic,” explained outfielder Gillian Zack ‘24. “They were very excited and open to meeting all of us and being part of the team. We try to have the team over the house to watch football games, eat, hang out and find other times to get everyone together outside of softball.”
Along with many intrasquad scrimmages to replicate realistic game situations, much of the Mules’s off-season consists of team practices, lifts, conditioning sessions and even water polo. Picking up batting signs and plays from the catcher, working on specific skills like hitting in two-strike situations or turning quick double-plays and getting a jump on reinforcing team values are all things that have proven to make a difference come springtime.
When asked about what those values look like, Zack commented, “Some core values on the team include genuinely being happy for our teammates’ success, being involved both on the team and within the college community, being respectful of the people around you and giving 100 percent of whatever you may have that day at either practice or a game.”
Like the softball team, Muhlenberg baseball played a higher-level opponent for their fall ball games, taking on the Division I Lehigh University Mountainhawks in two seven-inning bouts. It was a valuable experience for the Mules, who are eager to clean up a few little details and continue to work hard as the off-season comes to a close. On the game, Team Captain Jonathan Toth ‘24 shared, “One thing we learned is that we have a really tight group of guys this year. Although we’re competing against one another for playing time, I think every one of us has the chance to play valuable innings in the spring. This leads to more competition, which will only make us a better team.”
The team hopes to foster a welcoming and encouraging environment going into the spring, with the desire to maintain high standards throughout the season from every player on the roster. Creating that space within a team, especially with the new players, is essential to fostering success. “I think the incoming guys have fit in well,” said Toth. “After the first few weeks, they began to settle in and feel more comfortable, which allowed them to demonstrate their abilities on the field. As a team, I think we have been trying to keep each other more accountable in order to produce the best results on the field.”
With several months until the spring season, these two teams have more time to grow and continue to work harder than their future opponents. As the adage goes, the work done when no one is watching makes the biggest difference. So, while the spotlight may not be shining on them yet, Muhlenberg’s softball and baseball teams have been constantly striving to put themselves in the best position to win a 2024 Centennial Conference championship.