Bratland repeats All-American, pitches at national tourney

Samantha Bratland pitches against defending champion Virginia Wesleyan in the Division III National Championship Tournament. Submitted photo
By : 
S. Lee Epps

Luther College junior pitcher Samantha Bratland, for the second straight season, has been named to the Division III All-American Softball Team by the National Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA). 

The Spring Grove High School graduate just helped the Norse finish third in the 2018 national tournament, the highest finish in program history. She is a repeat All-America selection this spring after being a Third Team honoree as a sophomore in 2017.

This most recent acclaim came just after the Midwest Regional Tournament, where Bratland was named Most Outstanding Performer, was one of three Norse to repeat as All-Midwest Region honorees.

Bratland was one of three Luther ladies to repeat as All-Americans. Senior shortstop Anna Strien was again a First Team selection while senior outfielder Ashley Burrows was Second Team.

"These three backed up an All-American season in 2017 with another All-American season this year, and that is very difficult to do," said head coach Renae Hartl.

Bratland finished the 2018 campaign with a record of 28-6. She pitched 210 2/3 innings, allowed 53 earned runs, walked 70 and struck out 189 en route to an ERA of 1.76.

Bratland, after three years in a Norse uniform, ranks second all-time for career wins (70-12) and strikeouts (515). 

She also ranks third for career shutouts (19), innings pitched (496 2/3), fourth for appearances (91) and 10th for career ERA with over 200 innings pitched (1.53).

Luther's journey to the nationalo tournament began by winning a third consecutive Iowa Conference Tournament and sweeping all three games at the Midwest Region Tournament. The ladies then won two of three games versus the University of St. Thomas at the Super Regional. That qualified the Norse as one of the eight teams at the National Championships in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma May 24-29.

Luther won its opening round game against Massachusetts Institute of Technology  (6-3) before falling to Virginia Wesleyan (3-0), which went on to win its second straight national crown.

The Norse, in the elimination bracket, defeated Case Western Reserve (7-6) and then faced Illinois Wesleyan. Luther needed to defeat the Titans twice to advance to the national championship series. Luther won game one 5-2 and were defeated 5-1 in game two and were eliminated from the tournament with the only two losses coming against the top two teams in  the nation.

The Norse set a school record for wins with an overall record of 43-11. Luther was making its eighth appearance at the national tournament and fifth under the direction of Coach Hartl. Luther's third place finish was the highest finish at the national finale in school history. Luther had finished fourth (1985, 1990), fifth (1991, 2012, 2013) and seventh (2011).

At Spring Grove, Bratland was the 2015 Female Athlete of the Year, was honored with eight all-conference awards and earned 13 varsity letters - five in softball and four each in volleyball and basketball. She was All-State in softball in both her senior and junior seasons after receiving honorable mention All-State as a sophomore. Bratland was Academic All-State in all three sports. She is the daughter of Darin and Sara Bratland.