High school softball mid-season glance: St. Charles proving to be a class above the rest
Led by standout Brenna Koeppel, the St. Charles softball team is off and running. The Saints are one of many area teams that have had great first halves of the season.
ST. CHARLES — Thanks to some nicer weather after a winter that seemingly would never end, the high school softball season is starting to ramp up.
A number of squads are starting to flex their muscle, but perhaps none more impressively than St. Charles.
With a number of key starters returning, including ace Brenna Koeppel, along with standouts Makadyn Gust and Lauryn Delger, the Saints were ranked by Breakdown Sports Media as the top team in Class AA in their annual preseason rankings.
The Saints have blown away those expectations.
They are 10-0, having outscored opponents by an absurd total score of 93-1. That one run was unearned and came in an 11-1 victory against Rushford-Peterson on Tuesday. As a team, the Saints are hitting for a .367 average with more walks (34) and steals (29) than strikeouts (21).
They have done it by beating solid squads too, including defending Class AA state champion Chatfield 10-0 and 8-0, as well as a strong Kasson-Mantorville team 7-0.
A lot of it has to do with Koeppel in the circle.
The senior has been spectacular, having yet to allow an earned run in 60 innings. Overall, she has allowed just 13 hits, while striking out 95 batters, compared to just four walks. On April 10, she tied the school record with 17 strikeouts in a 2-0 win against Dover-Eyota. There are only 21 outs in a seven-inning game.
Those are video-game like numbers.
The final three weeks of Koeppel's regular season will be fun to watch with matchups against Mayo and Winona on the docket.
Koeppel and the Saints aren't the only ones off to great first halves of the regular season:
1. Makayla Steffes, Winona
A staple for the Winona program for years, Steffes has somehow gotten even better for coach Mitch Grossell and company. The Saint Mary's University commit has already tossed a pair of no-hitters and has allowed just one earned run with 53 strikeouts in 31 2/3 innings for the two-time defending Class AAA state runners-up.
2. Macy Borowski, Byron
No surprise, but the talented Borowski has excelled in the circle and at the plate for Byron, and she had a game to remember against Stewartville. The Brown University commit smacked a pair of homers and struck out 16 in the circle as Byron beat the Tigers on April 27. She also pitched a shutout on Monday against a solid Cannon Falls team.
3. Ella Babcock, Kasson-Mantorville
Another solid two-way player, Babcock has shined for the KoMets this season. April 20 she tossed a no-hitter and also blasted a solo home run to help her own cause in an 11-1 win over Austin.
4. Madison Hazelton, Winona Cotter
The second hard throwing right-hander from Winona to make the list, Hazelton continues to put up zeros for the Ramblers. She tossed a no-hitter with 15 strikeouts in the Ramblers’ 7-0 blanking of Plainview-Elgin-Millville on April 14. Hazelton walked just one, just missing a perfect game. She now is 7-0 with a 1.54 ERA this season.
5. Morgan Erickson, Century
The Century junior has been great this season. As a leadoff hitter she's hitting for a .500 average with a .556 on-base percentage and an OPS of 1.337. In the circle, she has struck out an incredible 111 batters, to go against just six walks with a 1.59 ERA in 61 innings pitched.
(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 and stats are up to date entering Thursday, May 4.)
1. St. Charles
The Saints have been outstanding this season. They have a bit of a chip on their shoulders after falling short in a difficult Section 1AA postseason a year ago — section champ Chatfield went on to win the state title. It has led to domination this season as the Saints are currently the favorites not only in the section tournament but in the state, as well.
The Winhawks seem more than capable of a third consecutive deep postseason run. Not only has Steffes been great, but she is part of a dynamic 1-2 duo with Ava Hamsund, who recently threw a no-hitter to give the Winhawks their third in 11 games so far this season. The two have allowed just four earned runs on 21 hits with 89 strikeouts in 59 innings pitched.
Led by Borowski, the Bears are emerging as the Winhawks top challenger in Section 1AAA. They had won nine of their first 12 games, prior to Thursday's contest against Lourdes, with wins over Kasson-Mantorville, Onalaska (Wis.) and Chatfield. Hattie Mathre, Leaah Strain, Emma Kramer and Mia Borowski have also played well for the Bears.
Like St. Charles and Winona, the Rockets were tabbed by Breakdown as the top team in Class A to begin the season. They have lived up to the billing every step up of the way. The Rockets are 7-0, outscoring opponents 84-5 after a 10-0 drubbing of defending Class A champion Nicollet on Tuesday. Carter Raymond has been spectacular in the circle and at the dish. She recorded 13 of the 15 outs via strikeouts. Carly Kimmes has also been tearing the cover off the ball.
The Huskies have been impressive so far, starting the season 5-0, before falling to Big Nine Conference favorites Winona (7-0) and Mankato West (3-1). They bounced back in stellar fashion, sweeping Mayo in a doubleheader on Tuesday.
6. Cannon Falls
Despite the graduation of standout Abby Breuer, the Bombers have not skipped a beat this season. They are 7-1 entering Thursday's tilt with Zumbrota-Mazeppa, which Cannon Falls beat 5-4 on May 2. Ally Pagel has been great at the dish for the Bombers.
Somewhat quietly, the Cougars have been taking care of business and have proven to be a threat in the always competitive. They were 8-2 entering Thursday's contest against Cannon Falls, which had knocked off the Cougars 5-4 on Tuesday. That loss had snapped a six-game win streak that included wins over Winona Cotter, Pine Island and Kasson-Mantoville. Camryn Kovars has produced all season long for the Cougars.
8. Winona Cotter
Thanks in part to the pitching of Hazelton, the Ramblers are 8-1 entering today's double-header against Rushford-Peterson. But Hazelton isn't the only Rambler producing, as both Emilia Krage and Savy Repinski are hitting better than .500 for the season. Krage leads the Ramblers with 15 RBIs on the season.
The KoMets have a number of great players including the previously mentioned Babcock, as well as Calleigh Richards. The KoMets expect to contend when it comes to the Section 1AAA tournament.
After winning six of their past seven, the Spartans have dropped three in a row, to Pine Island and a very good Owatonna team. Mayo is now 6-6 but has been in every game, with three of those losses coming by just one run. Tiegan Mancuso, Alexa Carlstrom and Olivia McNallan are all having solid seasons for the Spartans.