The Goshen College softball team will debut their 2023 season on Feb. 10.This season, the Leafs are under the direction of Luke Wagner, who took over the position of head coach in August 2022.
Wagner previously coached at Rhodes College, an NCAA Division III institute in Memphis, Tennessee, for 11 seasons. During his time there, he racked up the most wins of any coach in the program, with 217 wins and a 58.8% win percentage.
Wagner is also pushing his teams toward academic success. Over Wagner’s years at Rhodes College, his teams earned “Top 100” GPA status, an award presented by the National Fastpitch Coaches Association, eight times. In 2021, his team was ranked fifth across the NCAA and NAIA softball programs, with a 3.816 GPA.
In the 2022 season, the Leafs went 14-22 in conference and 24-28 in the overall season. Despite having a younger team — nine freshmen, six sophomores, seven juniors and no seniors — the Leafs are expected to soar under Wagner’s coaching expertise.“Coach Wagner will lead our softball program to a new level of success both on the field and in the classroom,” said Erica Albertin, athletic director. “He will greatly contribute to our department and school.”
The softball team also has ambitious goals for this season. Their preparation begins in the gym.
“Preseason training has presented a lot of opportunities for us,” junior Ellie Van Heerde said. “We are lifting three times a week to help create strength and prevent injuries. We’re also practicing six times a week, both inside and outside. If the weather is good, we’re taking advantage of it.”
The Leafs’ season will include a trip to Florida, where they will spend about a week competing against several schools from Florida and the Midwest.
Wagner shared that although there will be time to enjoy the weather “we are focused on maximizing our opportunity to get outside on dirt early in the season.”
“The primary goal for our trip to Florida is to play excellent competition that will again provide us a measuring stick for what adjustments need to be made before conference play begins,” he said.
“I would say an advantage to us traveling so far is that we are a young team that is very close,” she said. “We have each others’ backs and are always faced with challenges, especially with weather conditions, but we get through it together.”
The Leafs’ long-term goals include making it to the Crossroads League conference tournament and walking away with a victory.
“Taking it slow will help us with our mindset and learning how to take our time, rather than getting ahead of ourselves,” Van Heerde said.
“It’s going to be a good year for us, with our coaching staff and the girls on the team.”
Coach Wagner said that his goal for the team is to play meaningful softball.
“Any team can take the field; any team can show up for their scheduled competitions. The teams that are special know why they are where they are,” Wagner said. “And that ‘why’ gives them a purpose and a focus. When we take the field, we will know our collective ‘why;’ we will play with a purpose.”
The softball team will compete on Friday, Feb. 10 against Concordia University of Michigan in Brighton, Indiana.
To keep up with the team’s upcoming games and stats, check out goleafs.net.