This is a snapshot of a University of St. Thomas athlete:
The Tommies were playing Emory University in an opening-round game of the Division III College World Series in softball. The final eight of this 2016 NCAA tournament was being played in Salem, Va., and the Tommies were trailing 3-0 in the top of the sixth.
There were two runners on when Dana Connelly doubled into the left-field corner. Melissa Berry scored and then Kierstin Anderson-Glass, running from first, tried to follow her home.
Emory catcher Melody Carter took the throw a step up the third base line and applied a tag to the left side of Anderson-Glass’ helmet as she tried to slide past. Emory escaped the half-inning with one run allowed.
There was some whiplash action with Anderson-Glass’ neck, but after being checked, the freshman pitcher came back out for the bottom of the sixth. After one out, she felt sick, and came out of what would become a 3-2 victory for Emory.
“We thought it could be heat exhaustion,” Anderson-Glass said.
The date was May 26, 2016. The next day, the Tommies faced St. John Fisher in an elimination game. Anderson-Glass passed a concussion test and was scheduled to pitch.
“I went on our jog for warmups and became dizzy; I couldn’t see straight,” she said.
Coach John Tschida noticed Anderson-Glass looked pale and that her eyes did not seem alert. He decided not to pitch the freshman from Visitation.
The Tommies lost that game 2-0 and returned to St. Paul going 0-2 in the World Series.
This is the ordeal of a University of St. Thomas athlete:
Division III coaches are not permitted to work with players during the offseason. Tschida only saw Anderson-Glass a few times that summer, but he was rattled by her weight loss.
“Every time I ran into Kierstin that summer, she had lost more weight,” Tschida said. “She had been a solid, powerful athlete, and wound up losing 40 pounds.”
Forty pounds … really? “Yes,” she said. “I was so nauseous I couldn’t eat anything.”
Anderson-Glass visited various specialists, including at the Mayo Clinic. It wasn’t until October of that year that the diagnosis of a significant concussion was confirmed.
Anderson-Glass said: “I was in no way, shape or form ready to compete in 2017. I had lost all that weight and still had a lot of bad days. That became my redshirt year. I’m not sure how I made it through the whole year as a full-time student.”
Tschida’s version was that Kierstin arrived at St. Thomas with dreams of being a 4.0 student and was disappointed when her grade-point average slipped a bit.
That was repeated to Anderson-Glass in a phone conversation Wednesday and she had a burst of laughter.
“I don’t know where Tschida gets some of this stuff,” she said. “I never considered myself a 4.0 candidate. I wanted solid academic results with a good education.”
The concussion symptoms weren’t going away. Anderson-Glass had arrived with the strongest freshmen class in Tschida’s tenure with the Tommies (starting in 2001). By 2018, most of those players were in their junior seasons, and their pitcher was sidelined once again.
“That was really hard, to miss a second season,” she said.
This is the comeback of a University of St. Thomas athlete:
Dana Anderson was at the wheel of a rented Chrysler 300 on the drive from the Twin Cities to Tyler, Texas, where the Division III softball World Series will start Thursday with No. 1-ranked St. Thomas playing Eastern Connecticut State.
Alan Glass, her husband, and Nicholas, her son, were in the car, along with Dana’s parents, Dean and Daphne, who were picked up in Iowa en route. Dean was the grandpa who handed Kierstin a tennis ball as a 2-year-old and started teaching her to zip it underhand.
“It was a long road back for her, but I always was confident we’d see her pitching for the Tommies again,” Dana said. “Kierstin’s a tough athlete.”
She made her official return to the mound for the Tommies on Feb. 23, 2019, with four strong innings in a 9-1 victory over UW-Oshkosh.
It had been 1,003 days since she was tagged out on a slide in the softball World Series and took a blow to the helmet, accompanied by what seemed a minor whiplash of the neck.
Now, three years later, most of those freshmen that led the charge to the 2016 World Series are back as seniors — in Texas, not Virginia — and with Anderson-Glass once again as the pitching ace, yet only a sophomore in eligibility.
Kierstin is 20-0 since April 6, with a 0.28 ERA. In eight postseason starts, she has given up one run in 58 innings. She is doing this with less fastball than as a freshman, but with what Tschida calls “icy calm and cool; she wins with control, movement and intelligence.”
She is a candidate to be a Division III All-America as a pitcher, and also for the CoSIDA Academic All-America team with her 3.47 GPA.
“She’s a bulldog,” Tschida said.
This is a University of St. Thomas athlete any conference would be proud to claim, even though there are now at least nine school presidents thumping their chests that they have succeeded in throwing out this original MIAC member and won’t have Tommies stories such as that of Kierstin Anderson-Glass to witness after the spring of 2021.