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Riverland softball gets recruits from SE Minnesota

By Scott A. Kolb

The Post-Bulletin

Riverland softball coach Dave Lillemon has announced the commitment of three more players to his team for next season.

Maggie Johnson from Austin High, Kaylee Newman from Alden-Conger, and Kelly Shelin from LeSeuer-Henderson High School will all join the Lady Blue Devils on the diamond next season.

Johnson is the third player from this year’s Austin Packers softball team to join the Lady Devils for next season. Holly Waltz and Nicole Harmer are the others.

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Lillemon has now secured the two fastest players out of the Packers lineup from this past season. Scoring runs with the speed game on the bases is a key component of being competitive in the Minnesota Community College Conference, South Division.

Waltz was the leadoff hitter and Johnson batted in the ninth spot for the Packers. Johnson’s defensive skills and her speed in the outfield will give the Lady Devils a shot of energy.

Johnson knows how to run the bases and turn singles into runs. She proved that by scoring the winning run last weekend in Austin’s win over Faribault in the Class AAA, Section One playoffs. Her performance in the pressure-filled atmosphere of the section tournament showed Lillemon that he needed Johnson’s presence on his team.

"Maggie is an outstanding individual who brings enthusiasm and talent to our squad," Lillemon said of his newest recruit. "She is a great contact hitter and gives us another Big Nine Conference player, who has played against tough competition."

Newman and Shelin are both pitchers. Newman pitched all of the innings during the spring season for the Alden-Conger Knights. Newman will provide defensive depth for the Lady Devils, because she also plays third base and bats from the left side.

"Kaylee is a fierce competitor, who lives and breathes softball," the coach said. "She will give us a lift in the pitching area, and it’s always nice to have a left-handed hitter in the lineup."

Shelin was also an outstanding high school pitcher for LeSeuer-Henderson. The addition of a couple of more arms gives much needed depth to the pitching staff. Amber Wilson carried much of the pitching load this past season and now that she’s gone, it was imperative for Lillemon to find some more hurlers.

Liz Morrill will be the returning sophomore ace next season and with more pitchers now on the roster, she won’t have to throw so many innings. All of the conference dates are doubleheaders for the Lady Devils and pitching depth is a big concern.

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These recent commitments give coach Lillemon a total of nine new freshmen to compete for the Lady Devils next season. The coach has been on the recruiting all spring attending the various tournaments to strengthen his program.

Riverland softball was dead for two seasons, but Lillemon has revived the program and the future appears to be bright with the continued addition of talented players from area high schools.

Not only has Lillemon worked tirelessly to rebuild the softball program, but he also devoted many hours to revamping the field at Riverland College. After a couple of years of disuse, the softball field at the junior college had become overgrown and unfit for MCCC play.

With the help of funds appropriated by the school administration, Lillemon reworked the fences and gave the old field a facelift. Yet, most of the work was done by the coach on his lawn tractor. It was Lillemon who carved the old college baseball field, now part of the Riverland complex, out of a vacant lot.

Playing on their own field has given the Lady Devils a sense of identity. With his work on and off the field, Lillemon has taken great strides in trying to restore Riverland softball to the successful program it was earlier in this decade.

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