Austin girls open the season on the road
By Scott A. Kolb
The Austin Packers softball team will rely on a young pitcher in today’s season opener at Faribault.
Marie Clennon, a ninth-grader, pitched in the Elks Tournament last season and that was her only mound action for the Packers. She has a lively arm and good snap on her pitches, so the Packers will go with a youth movement.
Brandi Ruroden, a sophomore, returns as the starting catcher for the Packers. The experience of Ruroden behind the plate should help Clennon maintain an even keel in her mound starts.
"We think she can handle the pressure of being the starting pitcher," Austin coach Steve Knox said. "Marie has come a long way since last season, and learned to place her pitches.
"It’s a big help to have Brandi back at catcher with her experience from last season. We can use her time behind the plate to steady the hand of our young pitcher."
In preparation for today’s opener in the Big Nine Conference against the Faribault Falcons, the Packers have had a few practices outside on their home field at the North Todd Park complex.
Although the pitching-catching battery is relatively young, the Packers do have a number of experienced players coming back to help the defense. The Packers will surround their freshman hurler with a solid group of fielders and hitters.
Jolene Brody, a senior, started last year in center field and was one of the top power hitters on the team. Seniors Cassy Rockers and Ashley Enfield will also see time in the outfield rotation.
The Packers are deep in the outfield and all of the girls in those positions have good speed. Sara Alms, a junior, showed off her speed as a courtesy runner last season and she’ll start in the outfield. Juniors Rachel Donovan and Katlynne Fisher will also vie for playing time in the outfield mix.
Sara Sundberg, a junior, will be moving from the outfield to shortstop. Kaycee Lukes, a junior, started last season and is back at second base.
Ashley Crump, a junior, will start at first base. Bri Mayer, a junior, takes over the hot corner at third base. Junior Audrey DeVries is a solid defensive player and will see some time as the designated hitter.
"We have a good group of athletes filling the infield spots, so we need to play solid defense and keep the pressure off our pitcher," Knox said. "Ashley (Crump) was our designated hitter last year and now, she has a chance to step in fulltime at first.
"Mayer is a hard worker and we’ll use her performance at third to help set the tone for the defense. We also have eighth-grader Jennifer Yocom, who might do some pitching throughout the season."
After starting the season on the road, the Packers will host their home opener with a doubleheader against Albert Lea on Thursday afternoon at Todd Park.
AUSTIN HIGH SOFTBALL
Seniors — Jolene Brody, Cassy Rockers, Ashley Enfield. Juniors — Kaycee Lukes, Sara Alms, Kayla Gorman, Audrey DeVries, Alexandria Neumann, Katlynne Fisher, Sara Sundberg, Rachel Donovan, Robin Arjes, Emily Beckel, Bri Mayer, Ashley Crump. Sophomores — Brandi Ruroden, Kelli Bednar, Katie Johnson. Ninth-grader — Marie Clennon. Eighth-grade — Jennifer Yocom.
(Home games at Todd Park)
Apr. 7 — at Faribault, 5 p.m.
Apr. 9 — Albert Lea (DH), 4 p.m.
Apr. 14 — Rochester John Marshall, 5 p.m.
Apr. 16 — at Mankato West, 5 p.m.
Apr. 21 — Rochester Mayo (DH), 4 p.m.
Apr. 23 — at Mankato East, 5 p.m.
Apr. 24 — Elks Tournament, 5 p.m.
Apr. 25 — Elks Tournament, 10 a.m.
Apr. 28 — Winona (DH), 4 p.m.
Apr. 30 — at Owatonna (DH), 5 p.m.
May 5 — Faribault, 5 p.m.
May 7 — at Rochester Century (DH), 4 p.m.
May 12 — at Rochester JM, 5 p.m.
May 15 — Mankato West, 4:30 p.m.