After their first-ever appearance in the NCAA Women's College World Series didn't go as planned, the Gophers softball team looked to strengthen its roster by adding two transfers: pitcher Autumn Pease and outfielder Brooke Vander Heide.
Pease, a rising sophomore, attended Idaho State her freshman season. She finished the year with a 10-5 record, a 2.36 ERA and had 115 strikeouts, earning Big Sky Co-Freshman of the Year and second-team all-conference nods. Coming off her excellent freshman season, Pease is ready to move forward with a new team.
"I think I'm super excited for the season, to just be with a new group of girls that is super competitive," she said. "Not only within conference, but within each other, and I feel that they're girls who really push each other to become the best."
Pease spoke positively about her time at Idaho State and said she had a great experience there. The University of Minnesota's academic opportunities are among the reasons she decided to transfer.
"Ever since I was in, I think high school, I wanted to become an orthodontist and I was looking at dental schools," Pease said. "The dental school was a huge aspect that threw me into Minnesota."
Vander Heide, an incoming senior, previously attended Brigham Young University. During her three seasons at BYU she saw 300 at-bats, posting a .273 batting average. The rising senior made the WCC All-Academic Team in 2018. After three seasons at BYU, Vander Heide only has one season of eligibility left.
"I'm just excited to go into something new," Vander Heide said. "For me, it's kind of like a once in a lifetime opportunity right now because I got one season left, and I might as well just go out there and go big, right?"
Both Pease and Vander Heide have been receiving texts from teammates and coaches since the transfers have been official. They're ready to get to work, and Vander Heide mentioned her excitement to learn from assistant coach Katie Rietkovich.
"[I'm] super excited that Katie is the hitting coach and was a slapper," she said. "That's going to be awesome for me just because I'm a speed player."
Vander Heide is also looking to approach this season with a different mentality. She said she put aside her social life to focus on academics as well as softball during her time at BYU. She hopes to change that in Minnesota.
"This is one of my last years to play softball ever, and I just want to have fun," she said. "Obviously, I want to work hard and I want to get to know teammates a lot and get some great friendships, just have a lot of fun with those girls. And then, hopefully we have an awesome year. That's obviously a goal, right? Do awesome in season and then do awesome in post-season."
Pease and Vander Heide are the latest additions to the team. The Gophers will also welcome four incoming freshman into the roster: Delanie Cox, Kianna Jones, Olivia Peterson and Sydney Strelow.
Together, the six new faces hope they can be the difference as the Gophers look to return to the Women's College World Series for the second time in team history.