Ramblers look to extend seven-game conference winning streak
Ramblers will try to extend four-game Horizon League winning streak
Pasquale homers but late rally comes up short in 7-4 loss
Ramblers have won six of last seven games overall
Games at Wisconsin cancelled, Ramblers to play at Youngstown State, April 18-19
With Missy Beseres at the helm, the Loyola University Chicago softball program has enjoyed two of its best seasons in school history. With 52 wins, the Golden Valley, Minn., native has posted the second-highest total by a Loyola coach in her first two seasons and her .515 winning percentage currently ranks second in program annals.
In two short seasons, Beseres, a former standout pitcher at Penn State, has guided the Ramblers to five wins over BCS conference opponents, including perennial powers Northwestern and DePaul among others, and she is the first coach in Loyola history to guide the program to finishes of first or second place in each of her first two seasons on the job. Ten players have earned All-Horizon League accolades under Beseres' watch, and she has produced a Horizon League Newcomer of the Year, Horizon League Pitcher of the Year, and a National Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA) Second Team All-Great Lakes Region performer, as well as the first National Professional Fastpitch player in Loyola history.
The 2012 campaign featured numerous highlights as Beseres guided a young squad to a second-place finish in the Horizon League standings and to the second-highest number of conference wins (15) in program history. For the first time since 2004, the Ramblers reached the title game of the Horizon League Championship and the team's 31 conference wins over the last two seasons are the most over a two-year stretch in the history of Loyola softball. After starting the season 4-12 against some stiff competition, Loyola closed out the year by winning 22 of its final 33 contests.
One of Beseres' top recruits and prized pupils thus far in her career has been pitcher Brittany Gardner, who built on an impressive freshman season by claiming 2012 Horizon League Pitcher of the Year accolades to become only the fourth Rambler ever to earn such an honor. In addition, Gardner became the fifth player in program history, and only the second pitcher, to collect NFCA All-Great Lakes Region honors after posting school records with 205 strikeouts and 10 shutouts and her 18 wins also ranked as the second-highest total in Loyola annals. Just two years into her collegiate career, Gardner, who twirled a pair of no-hitters in 2012, already ranks among Loyola's all-time leaders with 32 wins (fifth) and 392 strikeouts (third).
Furthermore, Brooke Andresen continued her assault on the record book and heading into her final season she needs only 11 hits to equal the Loyola career mark set by Ellen Antonacci (177). Andresen also became the first Rambler ever to earn First Team All-Horizon League accolades three or more times and she became the first Loyola player since Yasmin Khan (1998-2000) to bat .300 or better in each of her first three seasons on the Lake Shore Campus.
In her first season as head coach at Loyola in 2011, Beseres accomplished more than nearly any other first-year coach in school history, sculpting a young but talented Loyola squad into a 26-win outfit and she also became the first coach in school annals to earn Horizon League Coach of the Year honors in her first season at the helm of the Rambler program. In 2011, Beseres turned a team that was picked to finish sixth in the Horizon League Preseason Poll into the conference's regular-season champion.
The first Loyola coach ever to earn Horizon League Coach of the Year recognition in her first season on the job, Beseres guided the Ramblers to a school-record-tying 16 Horizon League wins in 2011 as the team claimed the regular-season title for the fifth time in 11 seasons. Beseres steered Loyola to victories over Big Ten rivals Purdue and Wisconsin and also saw Jacqueline Grim become the program's first-ever NFCA National Player of the Week selection.
Beseres mentored five players to All-Horizon League status in her first season as a head coach and two of her freshman pitchers, Brittany Gardner and Keali Engelkens, flourished under her watchful eye. Gardner became the first Loyola softball player since 1995 to earn League Newcomer of the Year recognition, and also became the first true freshman pitcher to earn First Team All-Horizon League accolades since 2007. Gardner tossed 31.0 consecutive scoreless innings early in the season and she also tied a Loyola single-season record for wins by a freshman with 14.
Engelkens blossomed as the season moved along and the righthander wound up leading the League with a 0.90 ERA in conference play. Three freshmen earned First or Second Team All-Horizon League honors to mark the first time in school history that three freshmen have been tabbed all-conference.
Beseres' 26 wins in 2011 rank as the second-most ever by a first-year Loyola coach and Andresen became the first Rambler since Allison Scanlin in 2004 and 2005 to earn First Team All-Horizon League accolades in back-to-back years.
In addition to success on the field in 2011, the Ramblers also thrived in the classroom under Beseres' watch as five individuals were named NFCA Scholar-Athletes for having grade-point averages of 3.50 or higher.
Since joining the Loyola staff as an assistant coach six seasons ago, Beseres has helped coach 28 players who have earned All-Horizon League honors, including a pair of Horizon League Pitcher of the Year (Amy Solava in 2007; Brittany Gardner in 2012) performers.
Loyola's success hasn't been limited to the field however, as the Rambler program has achieved a great deal in the classroom as well, with four individuals earning ESPN The Magazine Academic All-District V recognition during Beseres' time on staff, while in both 2009 and 2010, the program received a Public Recognition Award from the NCAA for its outstanding Academic Progress Rate (APR) score. Loyola has also been tabbed a NFCA All-Academic Team in each of the last three seasons, twice finishing among the top 11 schools in the nation based on team grade-point average.
During the 2010 campaign, Loyola established a single-season school record with a .292 batting average and matched the school mark with 202 runs. Three Ramblers earned All-Horizon League accolades and two student-athletes, Stephanie Cihlar and Lauren Arceneaux, were selected ESPN The Magazine Academic All-District V. Included in Loyola's 22 wins was an 8-0 victory over No. 24 Notre Dame and a 3-2 decision at Northwestern for the program's first win over the Wildcats in Evanston since 1998. Under Beseres' watchful eye, Solava closed out her career ranked second on Loyola's career chart in wins (45), innings pitched (588.0) and strikeouts (412). The righthander also earned Loyola's Director's Award for having the highest grade-point average of any female student-athlete at the school.
In 2009, Beseres helped the Ramblers to a record-breaking season in which they posted 28 victories, the most since 2004. Loyola established two single-season team records in 2009, setting new standards for home runs (37) and stolen bases (116), and Solava picked up Second Team All-Horizon League accolades, marking the third time in as many seasons she has been an all-league selection. Beseres has coached two of Loyola's three winningest pitchers in school history in Solava (45 wins) and Krista Crosson (36 wins).
With Beseres' aid in 2008, Solava earned First Team All-Horizon League honors for the second time in as many seasons, and posted a career-best 16 victories, the most by a Rambler since 2004 and the third-highest, single-season total in school history.
Outfielder Ellen Kresl batted a whopping .374 to become the first Rambler to be a First Team All-Mideast Region selection. Off the field, Kat Krause earned ESPN The Magazine Academic All-District V honors for the second consecutive season to become only the third Rambler to earn such recognition on multiple occasions in her career. Arguably the most prolific slugger in Rambler history, Krause closed her career as Loyola's all-time leader with 32 home runs and 93 RBI.
In her first season on the Loyola staff in 2007, Beseres, a former Chicago Bandits pitcher, helped mentor four First Team All-Horizon League performers, the most since 2004, including Solava, who also earned NFCA All-Mideast Region honors along with Krause. After starting the season with a 4-12 record, Beseres helped right the Ramblers' ship as the team won 17 of its final 26 contests to finish with a 21-21 ledger. Along the way, Loyola posted three wins over nationally ranked teams. A victory over No. 17 Illinois State in March was the team's first win over a ranked team since 2000, and an April 17 victory over No. 7 Northwestern was the program's first ever over a top-ten team. The Ramblers also recorded their first victory over city rival DePaul since 1995 when they bettered the No. 14 Blue Demons, 3-0, in May.
Under the guidance of the Loyola coaching staff, Krause equaled her own Loyola single-season home run record with 11 roundtrippers in 2007, Raven Gengler became Loyola's then all-time RBI leader (89) and Tara Miller established the Loyola career record for runs scored (115).
Off the field, Loyola also was recognized for numerous efforts in the classroom and the community. In addition to earning the Horizon League's Community Service Award at Loyola, the Ramblers also placed Krause on the ESPN The Magazine Academic All-District V Team.
As a senior at Penn State, Beseres went 19-9 with a 1.42 ERA and 234 strikeouts in 191.2 innings of work for the Nittany Lions. The right-hander was a key figure for a Penn State squad that posted a program-best 39-16 record in 2006 and made an appearance in the NCAA Tournament. She tied a PSU record for shutouts in a season, with 10.
Beseres, who tossed two perfect games for the Nittany Lions, ranks second in Penn State history with 53 victories and totaled a school-record 746 strikeouts for her career. She was a Third Team All-Big Ten selection in 2006 and also garnered Second Team All-Great Lakes Region accolades. A two-time team most valuable player, Beseres graduated from Penn State in 2006.