Freshman Knapp benefits from experienced pitching staff

Greg Cornwell/Staff Photographer Junior outfielder and pitcher Kristen Kuhlman throws a pitch to an Oakland Player at Margo Yonker Stadium on Wednesday.

Central Michigan softball is 24-10 and has won seven straight games due to a talented pitching trio.

Seniors Morgan Yuncker and Chelsea Sundberg and freshman Rachael Knapp each bring different strengths. Knapp leads the team with a 1.88 ERA. Sundberg leads in wins. Yuncker leads with a 7-1 record.

All three have heavily contributed to the team’s success thus far, and despite the graduation of ace Kara Dornbos, her tutelage has helped this year’s pitching staff.

“Kara showed me important things about being a pitcher," Sundberg said. “She had great mental toughness. She was always controlled.”

Yuncker said she learned from Dornbos' composure in the circle by adapting it to her play.

Sundberg and Yuncker have impacted the growth of Knapp, who has a 7-2 record in her first season with the Chippewas.

“I pay attention to both of their approaches," Knapp said. "They never get rattled. Even when they’re doing poorly, it never gets to them. Morgan, Chelsea, and the coaches have shown me how to deal with adversity.”

Knapp has tallied more than 70 innings pitched, allowing 54 hits and a team-low 25 runs. She also boasts 89 strikeouts. To put that in perspective, Yuncker and Sundberg have a combined 86.

Knapp said she is surprised at how quickly she has adapted to intercollegiate softball.

In her first start against the University of Illinois-Chicago, Knapp didn't skip a beat. She pitched the full game and earned her first win, allowing only two hits and striking out eight.

After earning her first loss against UT Arlington, Knapp went on a four-game winning streak.

Arguably her best performance was a shutout victory against IPFW on April 2. She showed off the power of her arm against Fordham on March 7, striking out 14.

Knapp has allowed only four runs in the four complete games she has pitched this season.

“I think she’s doing amazing,” Yuncker said. “To be as calm, collected and poised as she is is very difficult. Especially the fact she’s doing this as a freshman is impressive.”

Speaking as a teammate as well as a mentor, Sunberg said she is excited to see how Knapp develops as a pitcher throughout her career.

However, the transition from high school to intercollegiate softball has not been easy for Knapp.

"At first, the schedules and the workouts were tough," Knapp said. "It really benefited me though, and I’m more than used to it by now.”

CMU is 3-1 in conference play, and they aim to improve their record Friday in a doubleheader against Buffalo.

The Chippewas have big expectations for the rest of the season.

“Our goal is to win the MAC season title and the MAC tournament title,” Yuncker said, "and we’ll continue from there."

After the doubleheader against Buffalo, CMU will head to Kent State for two more games this weekend.


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