Russell and Sterner impress as The Occidental’s Athletes of the Week

Max Sterner (junior), this week’s Athlete of the Week, is a member of the men’s baseball team at Occidental College in Los Angeles. Delaney Russell (sophomore), this week’s Athlete of the Week, is a member of the women’s softball team at Occidental College in Los Angeles. Friday, Feb. 21, 2020. Nancy Zhou/The Occidental

Delaney Russell

Delaney Russell (sophomore) helped the Occidental women’s softball team pick up its first win of the season against Brandeis University Feb. 17. After losing the first game 7–3, Russell went 3–4 at-bat with four RBIs in the second game, resulting in a 5–4 win. Russell said she felt good about her performance and that the team collaborated well.

“I think we just came together in the second game,” Russell said. “I think we put a lot more pressure on them.”

Kelliner Croushore, interim head softball coach, said Russell is seeing the ball well and worked hard in the batting cages, and she is happy to see Russell’s effort starting to pay off with this first win.

“Delaney is one of our power hitters, and is proving to be someone I can turn to when we need that timely hit,” Croushore said via email.

Alison Haehnel, former head softball coach, resigned Jan. 27 to pursue a career outside of college athletics. Haehnel’s departure did not affect the team’s training, according to Russell.

“We work hard no matter who’s the coach, because I think we’re playing for each other as well, not just for the coach,” Russell said.

While it is still early in the season, Russell said she believes the team will perform well because the players have been practicing hard on field and in the weight room since they arrived on campus during the offseason.

Croushore said the team faced some tough losses the first few games this season against the University of St. Katherine, but players have found a nice groove that she hopes they can continue to build on.

The team will start their SCIAC season Feb. 24 by playing Chapman University. The team’s goal is to earn a spot in the postseason SCIAC tournament by being one of the top four finishers of the season, according to Russell.

Russell said she has been to five of the seven continents.

Maxwell Sterner

Maxwell Sterner (junior) helped the men’s baseball team clinch its second win of the season in a three-game series against George Fox University. Sterner entered as the third and game-deciding pitcher when Occidental drew 1–1. He pitched six innings, with seven strikeouts and only one earned run, putting the team in an advantageous position as subsequent players closed off the third game 4–1.

Sterner said he was excited about how he performed against George Fox, a formidable opponent.

“Apparently, they were pre-season ranked number one in their conference up in the Northwest,” Sterner said. “As a team, we faced their number one pitcher. The guy was supposed to get drafted [by MLB].”

Head baseball coach Luke Wetmore said Sterner was able to overcome some adversity in the past couple of weeks and played well.

“He was pretty efficient,” Wetmore said. “In three, four pitches, he had six innings. He was pretty economical with his pitch count, it was in the 80s, maybe 90s, which was pretty good.”

Sterner said one of the challenges he faced this season was missing the two-week-long fall practice last season because he was studying abroad in Australia. However, Sterner said he managed to practice baseball while abroad.

“I got to play baseball in Australia for the University of Melbourne, and it was great to see my sport from a different culture,” Sterner said. “University sports isn’t as big over there, but I did play in the UniSport Nationals, which is all the universities in the country participating in a tournament.”

This is also the first season that Sterner is only pitching. Before, he was a two-way player as a pitcher and outfielder, according to Wetmore. Sterner said this gave him the opportunity to sharpen his pitching skills.

“This past year the [coaches] made me just a pitcher, and it gave me the chance to just focus on pitching and get really good at that, as opposed to being kind of good at both,” Sterner said.

According to Sterner, he is excited about the season ahead because the team has a lot of depth in the bullpen.

“A pitcher can only pitch a certain number of innings, probably like seven to nine,” Sterner said. “There’s 27 innings throughout those three games. So we need a lot of good pitchers to win all three games in the series.”

The team will play Centenary College Feb. 28, then Whittier College March 6. Wetmore said the team has a shot for SCIAC tournaments and potentially the conference championship.

Sterner said a memorable moment while in Australia was seeing Chris Hemsworth’s house.