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High school softball focus: Chatfield off to impressive start

After an elongated winter, area softball teams have been off and running these past couple of weeks and a number of area teams are starting to declare their contender status.

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Chatfield’s Peyton Berg bats during a softball game against St. Charles on Friday, May 21, 2021, in Chatfield. (Traci Westcott / twestcott@postbulletin.com)
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Jerry Chase knows a few inches here or there and the impressive start the Chatfield High School softball team is off to might look a little bit differently.

Even if Chase feels fortunate that bounces went the way of the Gophers in wins over St. Charles and Winona Cotter, it doesn't disguise the fact that the Gophers are 9-0 overall going into tonight's rematch against St. Charles. Chatfield beat the Saints 3-2 in the season opener on April 11.

The Gophers' record includes a perfect 7-0 mark against always tough and rugged Section 1AA opponents. That includes wins against very strong St. Charles and Cotter teams, as well as Cannon Falls and Caledonia/Spring Grove.

The Gophers have done it with a roster that features a great blend of talented junior and senior classes, who combine to be great in all three facets of the game.

Chatfield features one the area's best catchers in senior Peyton Berg — who features one of the strongest arms in the state — and one of the best center fielders in junior Kara Goetzinger. In fact, Chase called Goetzinger the best center fielder in the area, with her ability to use her great speed and length to cover ground others simply cannot.

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Berg and Goetzinger can also hit.

Both hit better than .380 with 10 doubles between them. As a team, the Gophers score more than a Section 1AA leading 8.3 runs per game.

Claire Springer leads the team with 14 RBIs, but the junior has been just as impressive in the circle with a sub-1.50 ERA and a 10-to-1 strikeout to walk ratio. Against St. Charles and Cotter she allowed two earned runs with 18 strikeouts in 14 innings.

"Talk about a kid that's strong," Chase said. "She's got some pipes on her. The biggest thing she has to do when playing Cotter and St. Charles is she has to keep the ball down. Those hitters, even if you have a good rise ball, if they hit it with that spin, it'll take it right over the fence. You have to keep it at the knees.
"She is just flat out throwing well right now."

Yet, the Gophers aren't the only team that is playing well right now. Many across our area are having seasons that have them thinking big things when it comes time for the postseason.

With that here is the first high school softball focus of the 2022 season.

TOP FIVE STANDOUTS

1. Maddie Cocker, Byron

The South Dakota State University commit has been simply fantastic this season for a Byron team that is 9-0 and ranked No. 4 in Class AAA by the Minnesota High School Fastpitch Softball Coaches Association. She has allowed just two hits in each of her last two starts in a pair of 3-0 wins against Zumbrota-Mazeppa and Kasson-Mantorville. She struck out 16 against the Cougars and 12 verses the KoMets. She is also great with the bat, homering twice in a 7-0 win over Faribault on April 23.

Byron's senior pitcher is one of Minnesota's best in the circle and in the classroom.

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2. Makayla Steffes, Winona

Steffes is simply one of the best all-around players in the area. She can hit, field and pitch for a Winhawks team that once again has aspirations at making a deep postseason run. She is hitting .368 with five extra base hits and 14 runs scored at the plate and in the circle, she has allowed just seven earned runs with 72 strikeouts in 42 innings pitched. She has allowed just one earned run and has struck out 19 in her last 15 innings.

3. Abby Breuer, Cannon Falls

Breuer and Cocker have been going back and forth for the title of southeast Minnesota's strikeout queen. Breuer has been great, helping the Bombers to a 6-2 overall record. On Monday, she struck out 16 in a six-inning win over Goodhue and had a game against Lourdes earlier this season that all 15 outs were recorded via strikeout. The University of Upper Iowa commit also is great at the plate too.

4. Alexa Carlstrom, Mayo

Carlstrom was feeling it on Tuesday in Mayo's doubleheader split with Owatonna. Carlstrom drove in seven runs in the two games, smacking a home run in game one, before following with a grand slam in game two. She also picked up the win in the circle with six strikeouts in seven innings in game one. She has been stellar all season for a Mayo club that has been playing some good ball this season. She leads the Spartans with 25 RBIs and is hitting over .400. She is also 6-4 in the circle with a sub 2.50 ERA.

5. Anna and Nora Bamlet, Hayfield

Much like Carlstrom, sisters Anna and Nora Bamlet also had a Tuesday to remember.
Anna drove in five runs, while sister Nora hit a three-run homer to lift Hayfield to the 12-2, six-inning win against Triton. Anna finished 2-for-4 and also picked up the win in the circle by allowing two unearned runs in six innings.

POWER RANKINGS

(Editor's note: These rankings are considered "pound-for-pound" rankings, similar to many rankings systems in boxing and mixed martial arts. They represent the best teams in southeastern Minnesota, relative to the class they play in. All records stats and records are up to date entering the games of Thursday, May 5.

1. Byron (9-0)

Winona has a claim to the top spot in our rankings, but for now its the Bears as they have dominated, outscoring opponents 81-9 in the nine games. That includes a pair of victories over a talented Kasson-Mantorville team with the latest coming Monday by a score of 3-0. Cocker continues to dazzle in the circle, allowing just two hits in each of her past two starts in addition to 28 strikeouts, while Macy Borowski has been on a tear at the plate. Borowski homered on Monday against Kasson to bring her season total up to five. A big game awaits Friday with the Bears — ranked No. 4 in Class AAA — hosting Winona.

2. Winona (11-1)

The Class AAA state runner-up from a year ago have kept the momentum going and are in the midst of a seven day stretch that has seen them beat Kasson-Mantorville, St. Charles and knock off a solid Red Wing team in a doubleheader sweep. The development of Ava Hamsund has given the Winhawks a great one, two punch in the circle with her and Steffes. Hamsund pitched really well in the state tournament last year. The two have allowed a combined eight earned runs on 47 hits in 74 innings. The Winhawks — ranked No. 3 in Class AAA — are great with the sticks too, especially with the powerful Grace Fricke anchoring the lineup. She is hitting over .500 with three homers and 15 RBIs.

3. Chatfield (9-0)

The Gophers are a perfect 7-0 in Section 1AA play, knocking off the likes of Winona Cotter, St. Charles and Cannon Falls already. Like previously mentioned, the Gophers have gotten great pitching from Springer and the bats have been fueled by Goetzinger, Jaiden Zimmerman and Berg. Chase and company know there are plenty more tests that await them though.

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4. St. Charles (6-2)

The Saints — ranked No. 3 in Class AA — are adjusting to having a target on their back after making the program’s first state appearance and first state championship last season. Standout Makadyn Gust is healthy after missing the basketball season with a torn labrum and is hitting .448 but the continued development of Lauryn Delger and Grace Buringa have really given the Saints a powerful trio on offense. Delger is tied with Gust for the team lead in hits at 13 and is hitting .481 with a pair of home runs and 12 RBIs, while Buringa is at .385 with a homer and three doubles. Brenna Koeppel continues to pitch well in the circle with the junior going 4-2 with a 1.22 ERA thus far.

5. Kasson-Mantorville (5-3)

All three of the KoMets losses have come to teams above them on this list. They dropped both games to Byron by a combined score of 8-3 and fell to Winona 7-0 on April 30. But K-M was extremely impressive in an 8-2 victory over Cannon Falls on April 28, flashing great defense, pitching and offense. The evolution of Ella Babcock in the circle has been fun to watch. She and Gabbie Grover combined for a no-hitter, striking out 15 hitters on Tuesday in a 9-0, seven-inning win over Lake City.

The KoMets were great in all three facets of the game in what was an impressive performance on Thursday.

6. Randolph (10-3)

The defending Class A champions have done well in their new conference, switching from the Southeast to the Gopher Conference and are ranked No. 8 in Class A. The Rockets did have their 27-game win streak snapped with a 10-2 loss to Nicollet, which is now ranked No. 3 in Class A, to open the season. Yet, the Rockets appear to be really finding their groove lately having won five in a row. The latest was a 4-1 victory over Hayfield on Monday that saw Carley Kimmes reach base four times with a double and a home run, while Carter Raymond struck out 14 to pick up the win in the circle.

7. Winona Cotter (8-2)

Another season, another great Cotter team under Pat Bowlin.

The Ramblers only two losses have come to St. Charles and Chatfield in games that could have gone either way. Standout Madison Hazelton has arguably been better than she was last season in which she had a terrific freshman season. The sophomore has allowed just one earned run on 19 hits with 84 strikeouts in 42 innings. She tossed a no-hitter Monday with 11 strikeouts against La Crescent-Hokah. Alison French continues to hit the cover off the ball with a .545 batting average with a team leading 15 RBIs. French went 4-for-4 against the Lancers.

8. Cannon Falls (6-2)

After a few seasons in Section 2AA, the Bombers are back in Section 1AA and are looking to make some noise. Fueled by the previously mentioned Breuer, the Bombers have been able to do just that having gone 4-1 in Section 1AA play with their only loss coming to an undefeated Chatfield team. A big test awaits with an HVL showdown against Byron on Monday.

9. Mayo (8-5)

The Spartans have won four of their past five games and are coming off a doubleheader split against a good Owatonna team on Tuesday. The aforementioned Carlstrom was great in that game and has been all year, as have Tiegan Mancuso, Olivia McNallan and Raiven Heise. All are hitting over .400 with Mancuso leading the way by hitting over .500. Mancuso has also swiped over 20 bases this season as well.

10. Wabasha-Kellogg (5-2)

The defending Section 1A champions have won three consecutive games and four of their past five after knocking off Lewiston-Altura 14-4 in five innings on Tuesday. Jacqueline Avilez smacked a home run and Ella Lineweaver finished 3-for-4 to lift W-K over the Cardinals.

Alex VandenHouten has been a sports reporter at the Post Bulletin since Sept. 2021. He loves to go hiking, biking, snowshoeing and just simply being outdoors with his wife Olivia. Readers can reach Alex at avandenhouten@postbulletin.com.
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