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AUSTIN EDITION - Packers gather No. 2 softball seed

Austin gets first-round section bye

By Guy N. Limbeck

glimbeck@postbulletin.com

Austin is the No. 2 seed in the 14-team Class AAA, Section One softball tournament and will receive a bye in the first round.

The Packers (16-3) take a five-game winning streak into section play which begins with the first two rounds Wednesday. The entire five-day, double-elimination tournament is being held at Todd Park in Austin.

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Top-seeded Farmington also gets a bye in the opening round Wednesday.

"We can rest our squad and more importantly our pitcher," Austin coach Todd Waterbury said. The Packers have been the No. 3 seed during the past three seasons. They were section winners and qualified for state in 1999 and 2000.

The Packers play the winner of No. 7 Rosemount and No. 10 Rochester John Marshall in the section round on Wednesday at 8 p.m. at diamond four at the South Complex of Todd Park.

"I think you have to list Farmington as the favorite," Waterbury said. The Tigers are rated seventh in the state in the Coaches Poll. This is their third No. 1 seed in the last four years, but the other top seeds did not result in a section title.

The Packers are rated 10th in the Coaches Poll, the only other ranked team in the section.

"I'm really, really pleased with our offense and pitching right now," Waterbury said.

Junior Amy Kelly has a 15-3 record and 0.62 ERA for the Packers. She has 153 strikeouts and just 14 walks in 124 innings. She has held opponents to a paltry .144 batting average.

Waterbury says the Packers have a more balanced offensive attack then they did during their two recent state tournament teams. The team has been held to just one or no runs in three of 18 games.

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"I think we're going to score some runs and I think Amy is going to do her part (on the mound)," Waterbury said.

Junior Kylene Erstad leads the Packers with a .431 batting average and with 20 runs scored. She is third on the team with 13 runs batted in.

Junior Steph Eslinger and sophomore Keri Feller lead the Packers with 14 RBIs each. Eslinger is batting .317.

Kelly is hitting .338 and is third on the team with 14 runs scored and fourth with 12 RBIs. Senior Chelsea McColley is hitting .313 with a team-high five doubles. Junior Betsy Hingeveld has scored 17 runs.

"I think we're a better hitting team this year, like we were when we want to the state tournament those two years," Waterbury said

If the Packers beat Rosemount or JM on Wednesday, No. 4 seed Rochester Century may be the next opponent on Friday. A showdown with Farmington would loom on Tuesday, May 29 if both teams win their first two games. The winner of that game is in the title game on Friday, May 31.

Waterbury said a key of the Packers' section success may be defense. The Packers have been jelling the past five games, the coach said, and may coming into their own as the postseason approaches.

"That's the last piece of the puzzle to get to that next level," Waterbury said.

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