By ANDY WOLF
Madison Arnold is having a softball season better than she could’ve ever imagined.
On the surface, it appears to have come out of nowhere.
With a little closer look, the offensive eruption is a direct reflection of her extra offseason work and a reframed mindset.
The University of Findlay junior right fielder and Elmwood graduate has crushed 10 home runs and is hitting .357.
Double-digit homers is a respectable mark for anyone.
It’s especially extraordinary for someone with no prior collegiate dingers.
“This season has been insane,” Arnold said.
Arnold has been a major cog in helping the Oilers qualify for the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference tournament.
Eighth-seeded Findlay (20-23, 10-12 GLIAC) takes on top-seeded Grand Valley State (31-15, 17-5) at 2 p.m. Saturday at Marathon Diamonds in Findlay.
Because of today’s inclement weather, the GLIAC tournament will be a single-elimination tournament with a best-of-three championship series starting at 10 a.m. Sunday.
Arnold’s next home run would tie UF’s single-season record set by Samantha Bradburn in 1987.
Additionally, she leads or co-leads the Oilers in every major offensive category.
She had just two hits as a freshman and was hitting .205 (8 for 39) in limited action over her first two years.
“I decided this year, it was not going to be about playing time,” Arnold said. “It was about playing the game, playing my game and having fun.”
As she does every year, Arnold put herself through her own self-reflection.
She discovered she wasn’t having fun anymore and decided to change her approach.
“Whatever happens is going to happen, and have some confidence,” Arnold said. “That’s what the game of softball is all about. You’ve got to bounce back and relax.”
For all of the hundreds of hours she puts in with her teammates, Arnold does extra on her own.
She hits off her own hitting tee at her house on those days when her swing doesn’t feel right.
Arnold regularly spoke with UF coach Danielle Lowe about her progress over the fall and leading up to the start of the season.
“It was her (starting) spot to lose at the beginning of the season because she worked so hard,” Lowe said.
Arnold started with a bang.
She belted solo home runs in the first two games of the season and crushed her third two games later.
After 23 games, she had nine homers and 27 RBIs while hitting .413 with a GLIAC-best 17 extra-base hits.
“She’s playing ball,” Lowe said. “I’m so proud of her.”
Arnold has 14 multi-hit games and 20 total games with an extra base hit.
The power has come as a bonus.
She is slugging .704 (third in the GLIAC) with nine doubles and three triples.
“We got a new strength trainer, so I guess I owe a lot to (UF assistant strength and conditioning coach) Travis (Roberson),” Arnold said of her power surge. “I’m lifting 100 pounds more than what I did last season.”
Lowe is even more pleased with Arnold doing the little things.
She hasn’t been caught in 12 stolen base attempts.
“She runs the bases and she takes extra bases, bunts the ball when you need a bunt down,” Lowe said. “And she has been making the plays in the outfield. She’s won us games just by her baserunning alone.”
Even with a revamped approach, Arnold is not without her worries.
Some natural frustration sets in when she doesn’t get a hit. But all in all, she’s very happy with how she’s kept her batting average and spirits up.
“If you don’t worry at all, you’re inhuman,” Arnold said. “Having a good mindset is what’s going to put anyone wherever they need to go.