08 Softball previews
BYRON (5-17) coach Gary Prantner has reason for optimism this season, as his young players are becoming veterans. The Bears have three key seniors returning — C Kylie Padgett (three-year letterwinner), OF/P Breanna Olson (two-year letterwinner) and Jenny Meyer. A group of experienced sophomores will be key players this season: P/OF Kelsey Slaby (.309, two-year starter), 3B Kaila Sanneman, SS Sam Toft and OF Shannon Prouty (.290). "This group of girls has a lot of varsity experience and they get along well. We will need to avoid injuries to be successful," Prantner said.
CANNON FALLS (9-12) lost three key position players off last season’s team that suffered a first-round loss in Subsection 4AA play. The Bombers move into Section 1AA this season, and seven other HVL teams will be in their subsection. The Bombers welcome back nine letterwinners. Junior SS Nicole Anderson (.477, 21 hits, .591 on-base pct., 10 steals) is Cannon Falls’ top hitter and her strong arm makes her an effective shortstop. Four seniors will lead the team – 3B Megan Sabrowsky (.321, 11 RBIs), C/OF Michelle McCoy, IF/P Morgan Sesker (.338, 22 hits), and OF Kali Sharot (a third-year starter). "Our team is determined to improve over last season. We play good defense and hit the ball well," coach Kirk Affeldt said. "Our pitching needs to improve throughout the season for us to make a push deep into the playoffs. The seniors are very motivated to push the team to the top of the conference race and play towards (the state tournament in) Mankato."
GOODHUE (7-14) coach Chris Irvin is looking for his team to climb closer to the top of the conference standings this season. His optimism stems from six returning starters, including captains Anna Ramboldt (senior C/1B, .414, 29 hits, 1 HR, 17 RBI); Erin Gadient (junior SS/C/OF, .311, 23 hits, 23 runs, 1 HR, 6 doubles); and Tracy Roschen (junior P/1B, 7-10, 3.98 ERA, 56 Ks). The other three returning starters are senior OF Summer Groth (.238), senior 2B/OF Laura Poncelet and sophomore IF/OF Nikki Ryan. Irvin is assisted by Kimberly Lundak, a all-conference player for Goodhue in 1993.
HAYFIELD (12-7) looks to build on last season with the help of seniors P Meagan Sergeant (.260 avg.) and OF Brooke Hendrickson, the team’s captains. Junior 2B Samantha Stephens (.241), 1B Laura Wagner and sophomore Renee Stier (.250) are the Vikings’ other returning letterwinners. "We have a pretty new team this year," coach Lisa Rueckert said, "but our pitcher, Meagan Sergeant, is returning to take the mound for the third year. The returning letterwinners are taking some good leadership roles and are looking well so far this season inside."
KASSON-MANTORVILLE (11-11) will look to improve on its .500 finish of a year ago, when the KoMets advanced to the West Subsection 1AA title game, only to fall Zumbrota-Mazeppa, then miss a section tournament berth with a loss to Pine Island in the second-place game. No further information was provided for this report.
KENYON-WANAMINGO (6-14) will lean heavily on its four returning letterwinners while watching some young players, including three sophomore pitchers, develop. Junior C Marissa Lurken (.277) is the Knights’ top returning hitter. Juniors SS Nicole Lubahn and 2B Liz Greseth, and senior OF/1B Chelsea Jones-Thomas are the other returning letterwinners. Sophomores Katelyn Schaefer, Jessica Hartfield and Rachel Sandager will see action at pitcher.
LA CRESCENT (N/A) is a newcomer to the HVL, but not to Section 1AA. The Lancers were eliminated by Spring Grove/Caledonia two wins shy of a section tournament berth last season. No further information was provided for this report.
LAKE CITY (15-5) is coming off the best season in school history and the Tigers return to Section One this season, so they’ll see many of their regular-season opponents come postseason time. Coach Dan Schroeder welcomes back seven letterwinners, including captains Kelsey Dieterman (senior SS) and Laura Berktold (junior C). Other returning letterwinners are P Bridget Evers, OF/C Brianna Evers, 2B Kristie O’Brien, 3B Michelle Becklund and OF Michelle Pflughoeft. "Our pitching should be strong enough to keep us in games. Offensively we should be able to score enough runs to be competitive. Last year was the best in Lake City history, so we are looking to top that," Schroeder said.
PINE ISLAND (15-11) has seven returning starters from its West Subsection 1AA runner-up team. That group is led by seniors 2B Sarah Lerum (.375), 3B Tina Maley (.235), OF Rachel Gustine and P Ashley Bergren (10-5). Junior Kalie McNallan, who went 5-6 last season, and junior Katie Kohner, give the Panthers three reliable pitchers. "We have seven seniors who will provide great leadership. Most of them have been around since their freshman year, so we look for them to play major roles for us," coach Ron Lenoch said.
ROCHESTER LOURDES (7-14) coach Doc Johnson said his Eagles are a very young team in terms of varsity experience and will be looking to improve as the season progresses. Their depth is limited this year, so if they can avoid injuries he looks for them to contend for an upper half finish in the HVL.
STEWARTVILLE (11-10) will be led by six seniors this season, including outfielders Sam Engebretson and Katina Morse, as well as P Caitlin Donahoe, P Wendi Irlbeck, and infielders Kayla Uptagrafft and Amy Wohlhuter.
TRITON (2-17) will field a young, but experienced lineup. Four of the five returning letterwinners are sophomores — SS/2B Taylor Staffon, 3B/OF Jen Ellingsen, 3B/1B Kamry Long and C Sam Groll. The other is a junior, P Emily Fischenich. Senior IF/OF Natasha King and junior P/OF Alyson Eipers will step into key varsity roles. "If we can put all phases of the game together consistently, we can be a really competitive team," coach Brent Haala said. "We need to avoid the big inning we gave up last year and cut down on the fielding mistakes."
WINONA COTTER (24-4) will have new faces in several key spots, including pitcher and shortstop. For the first time since 2001, someone other than Devin Bowlin will start at shortstop. Bowlin played in six state tournaments, setting a state record last spring by playing in 18 state tournament games. Pitcher Hannah Callahan also graduated last spring after a fantastic career. Her shoes will likely be filled by another Bowlin sister — freshman Lauren.
ZUMBROTA-MAZEPPA (22-5) was two wins away from making the state tournament last season, and the Cougars have seven returning letterwinners who played key roles on that team. Z-M has a talented lineup, as well as a talented defense, which begins with the battery of junior P Jess Hegseth (15-5, 1.52 ERA) and senior C Nikki Bromelkamp (.461 average, .500 on-base pct.). Senior 2B Merryssa Tiedeman (.435 avg., .484 OBP) gives Z-M a spark at the top of its order. Other key returning players include junior outfielders Alyssa Strunk (.338, .388) and Jessi St. Marie (.306, .354), senior OF Holly Hinsch, and senior P Cate Birmingham (5-0). Coach Kevin Nelson said Z-M will be a well-balanced team with "a good defensive player at every position, good pitching, a balanced lineup and overall good team speed."