Jul 19, 2018
Editor's Note: Starting July 7 and running through the rest of the month, Tommiesports.com will highlight 25 memorable events from St. Thomas' successful 2017-18 athletics year
Hayley Steps Up
In a balanced athletics department full of talented competitors, a convincing case could be made that St. Thomas' Most Improved female athlete in 2017-18 was softball's Hayley Dunning.
After pitching only 11 varsity innings as a freshman in 2017, Dunning emerged as one of the region's most effective pitchers as a sophomore in 2018.
Her improvement was a huge reason why St. Thomas won 23 of 25 conference games and swept the regular-season and MIAC titles. Coach John Tschida's Tommies came within one victory of a trip to the eight-team College World Series for Division III. St. Thomas won 39 games and closed the season with the No. 11 national ranking.
A native of Littleton, Colo., Dunning went 24-3 in 37 appearances with seven shutouts. Her stats included a 2.33 earned run average and just two losses over her final 31 games. In contests against MIAC opponents, she won her last 12 decisions.
She had a hand in three no-hitters, including a 1-0 victory over Central (Iowa) that clinched a trip to the NCAA Super-Regional playoff. Dunning also no-hit UW-Stout, and combined with Sammy Hogan on a five-inning no-hitter on the March trip to Florida.
Pitchers Dunning, Hogan and Isabelle Marketon all benefited from excellent defense, including a lot of ground-ball outs. UST had only 39 errors in 47 games, and its .973 clip was seventh best in Division III. At three key infield spots alone, the Tommies received seven ground-ball outs a game. At third, Elise Barnes had 143 assisted putouts; at shortstop, Rachel Suter added 113; and second base, Melissa Barry had 75.
Hogan has graduated, but Dunning's role could be tweaked again in 2019, regardless. Tschida could have the luxury of mixing at least three pitching starters with unique strengths. Joining Dunning will be at least one heralded pitcher from the incoming 2018 recruiting class. Plus there's the potential return of Kierstin Anderson-Glass, the MIAC's top pitcher as a freshman in 2016. Anderson-Glass has been on a slow physical recovery since suffering a 2016 concussion.
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