‘Big 3’ lead Hope softball into NCAA Tournament

HOLLAND, Mich -- The Hope softball team will host a Division III regional in the NCAA tournament starting Thursday.

The Flying Dutch (29-9) have been led by a strong senior class featuring three players who are setting records in Holland. Pitcher Sydney Jones, catcher Hayley Reitsma (Grand Rapids Christian), and second baseman Sierra Mutschler (Wayland) are hoping to finish their careers with a bang.

"We were kind of blown away by how much leadership our classes ahead of us have taken ownership of," Reitsma said. "They have pushed us to be better, so we realized as a class this year it is our job to do that for the incoming freshman and our underclassmen. So it has been kind of a special journey."

Mutschler is Hope's all-time leader in home runs with 27. Reitsma is second with 25. The two have been playing softball together since they were 12.

"I am just incredibly blessed to have my best friend right there in front of me," Mutschler said. "I think is something really special since we've been best friends for so long."

Jones is Hope's all-time leader in starts, strikeouts and batting average against.

"Getting to have Hayley and Sierra -- some of the best hitters ever -- on my team is incredible" Jones said. "They make me a better pitcher just by facing them in practice everyday. I do not like to pitch to them, so that is awesome to have them on my team."

The senior class has been apart of 108 wins, just two less than the record set by the class of 2008.

"The first time we had been in the NCAA tournament for a while was their freshman year, and they were a big part of that," said Mary VandeHoef, in her eighth year as head coach. "I think that caught the fire for them of that being that level of expectation."

Hope will kick off the tourney Thursday against Greenville University (Illinois) at 2:30 p.m..

Calvin College (30-8) plays Franklin College (Indiana) in the first game of the day at noon.

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