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Courtesy: WMU

40 in 40 - WMU Softball Success, 1980-82

Courtesy: Mat Kanan, director of athletic media relations
Release: 08/06/2012
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Celebrating the 40th Anniversary of Title IX, wmubroncos.com takes a look at 40 key moments/females in the history of women's athletics at Western Michigan University. Though the selection process, an effort was made to highlight a moment and player/coach from each of our current women's sports programs, as well pay respect to our women's legacy sports. A different feature will be released each of the 40 days, July 24 through Sept. 1.

 

WMU Softball Success, 1980-82

Taking a five-year old program to a fourth place finish at the national championship today would be on every web site, on the news and all over social media.  With it happening in 1980 in college softball, it came with a little less fanfare but was just as incredible nonetheless.

That is exactly what the matriarch of WMU softball, Fran Ebert, did with the Western Michigan softball program with it in its infancy.  Well, may in its toddler years.

WMU softball's success from 1980-82 set the bar for all other teams that would follow this era and a standard that would be, and should be sought year in and year out.

A member of the Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women (AIAW), which began in 1971, the Bronco softball team competed at the state, regional and national level.  The seeds of success were laid in 1977 when WMU finished second in the state of Michigan and fourth at the AIAW Regional.

Back-to-back AIAW state championships in 1978 and 1979 set the stage for WMU's three-year run beginning in 1980.

Western Michigan University showed its support for the program by constructing a new softball field for the team in 1980.  The Broncos captured the Mid-American Conference Invitational Tournament although the conference did not have an official season and would not for another couple of seasons.

WMU captured a third-straight AIAW state championship and third at the AIAW Regional for the second straight season, earning a spot in the AIAW Nationals (College World Series) for the first time in program history.

Who were the women that put the Broncos in this position?  They are names that would become synonymous with the program.  WMU did not have a pitcher with an ERA over 1.00 in 1980 and two pitchers racked up double digit wins in the circle.

Bonni Kinne went 17-4 with a 0.28 ERA, the second lowest in program history, while Kim Worden, who would become the program's all-time winningest coach, amassed 10 wins with a 0.76 ERA as both pitched over 150 innings.

Western Michigan would finish fourth at the AIAW Nationals, while Kinne, Linda Berndt and Pattie Rendine were named to the AIAW World Series All-Tournament Team.  It is the best postseason finish ever, but the Broncos would be back and sooner than later.

In 1981, Kinne was again a force in the circle with 16 wins and an ERA below one (0.36).  Offensively, the consistent play of Berndt paced the Broncos, hitting .325 after hitting .327 to lead WMU in 1980.

Another AIAW state title paved the way for a second place finish at the AIAW Regional and another trip to the AIAW Nationals where WMU would finish ninth.  This was the final year Western Michigan competed for an AIAW national crown as the program moved over to the NCAA a season later.

Western Michigan finished second in the inaugural MAC Tournament in 1982.  Berndt saved her best offensive season for the team's first on the NCAA stage, hitting .353 in 44 games started and played.  Kinne had a record-setting season in 1982, finishing with a miniscule 0.15 ERA, capturing 17 wins in as many starts with 11 shutouts. 

WMU captured its first AIAW Regional title that season and finished fifth at the NCAA National Tournament.  During this three season span, WMU softball went 13-11 in postseason play with a program best six postseason wins in 1980.

Western Michigan softball roared onto the national stage during its early years of existence.  Coach Ebert was the architect of this success as she was in so many areas of women's athletics at WMU. 

That success continued into the final three seasons of Ebert's coaching career, capturing the MAC regular season titles in 1983 and 1984, and then the program's first MAC Tournament title in 1985.

The 1980-82 run resulted in three of the program's 11 30-win seasons, including a record 39 wins in 1981.  When the dust settled the team had amassed 108 victories, the most over any three year span in WMU softball history.

Those experiences paved the way for Worden to take the helm five years later and embark on a coaching career that would result in 321 career victories (program best) and 142 wins at home (program best) as well.


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