Article reprinted courtesy of Fargo Forum and reporter Eric Peterson.
MOORHEAD — In her free time, Concordia senior Megan Gavin likes to express her artistic side, creating paintings with acrylics or drawings with pencil.
"If I have a canvas open, I will paint it right away," Gavin said.
Gavin's favorite painting is a blue flower that she gave to her grandma last Christmas.
"I loved that one," she said.
The Cobbers pitcher has also shown her artistry on the softball diamond this spring, helping the team make history. Concordia (21-19) made the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference playoffs for the first time in program history. The MIAC tournament started in 2004.
"It's a pretty good accomplishment," said Cobbers head coach Chad Slyter. "Our conference is very, very competitive. … It's a very high level of softball. For us to make the playoffs shows we've taken a big jump in the program."
The No. 6-seeded Cobbers play at No. 3-seeded St. Benedict (26-6) at 4:30 p.m. Thursday, May 13, in St. Joseph, Minn., in the first round of the MIAC playoffs.
"Especially after coming from the pandemic, we all wanted to prove a point," Gavin said after the 2020 season was cut short. "We thought last year was going to be our year."
The 5-foot-11 Gavin has proved her point from the circle, setting a single-season record for strikeouts this spring with 208 in 22 appearances. She's averaging 11.23 strikeouts per seven innings with a 9-10 record and a 1.78 ERA.
Gavin also has the program's career record for strikeouts with 485 in 75 appearances. She is averaging 8.23 strikeouts per seven innings in her career. Abby Haraldson held the previous records for strikeouts in a season (200 in 2016) and a career (440 from 2014-2018).
"She's been tremendous," Slyter said of Gavin. "The axiom with softball is everything begins and ends with your pitchers. … She's dominated in the circle and she gives us a chance to beat anybody."
Slyter said Gavin has added a few miles per hour to her fastball since last season, clocking as high as 67 miles per hour indoors this spring. He said that's the equivalent of a fastball around 97 miles per hour in baseball. She's developed an offspeed curveball to go with her fastball, regular curveball and rise ball.
"She's transformed herself from primarily a rise ball pitcher in the first couple years to being able to utilize her curveball now," Slyter said.
Gavin dedicated herself to getting better this past offseason, which started earlier than expected after COVID-19 halted the 2020 season after the Cobbers had played 12 games.
"I didn't stop working," Gavin said.
She remained in Moorhead and worked on her pitching on an outdoor softball field early on in the pandemic and then at an indoor facility once that was safe. She also did different drills and weight training to get prepared for this spring.
"She really dedicated herself in the offseason," Slyter said.
The tricky part for Gavin was she wasn't sure what this spring season would look like with the uncertainty of the pandemic, so she tried to temper her excitement during the offseason.
"I didn't want to have a lot of hope going into this year, just because I still didn't know what the pandemic was going to hold," Gavin said. "It was so hard. I struggled with getting that hope back."
However, once the season started in early March, it didn't take long for Gavin to find her groove.
"That hope came back pretty quick," she said.
Gavin credits Cobbers pitching coach Logan Herbert for helping her refine her mechanics and improve on her pitches. Herbert played and pitched for LSU-Alexandria, an NAIA program, from 2011-2014.
Gavin said playing at St. Ben's in the opening round is an exciting matchup since St. Joseph, where the college is located, is less than 20 minutes from her hometown. In addition, most of her family members either attended college at St. Ben's or St. John's.
In 2016, Gavin was the St. Cloud Times player of the year for softball at Rocori High School. She was also involved in band, choir and musicals. Gavin was involved in 28 different activities during her four years of high school.
The pandemic helped her reconnect with her artistic side. She started to paint and draw more with the extra time she had and that has continued into this spring.
"I will do it as much as I can," said Gavin, working it around her academics, softball and student teaching.
An elementary education major, Gavin plans to become a teacher and would also like to coach. She's planning to return to play for the Cobbers next spring, taking advantage of an NCAA eligibility waiver due to COVID-19.
"For us to make the playoffs shows we've taken a big jump in the program," Slyter said. "We're still not satisfied and want to continue to grow down that road."