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Off its first winning season since 2016, Mayo softball eyes run in wide-open Section 1AAAA field

Spartans have nearly doubled their win total from last season heading into the postseason.

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Mayo's Alexa Carlstrom (29) throws a pitch during a softball game against Mankato East Friday, May 14, 2021, at Mayo High School in Rochester.
Joe Ahlquist / Post Bulletin
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For the first time since 2016, the Mayo High School softball team will have a winning season.

In fact, under the leadership of first-year coach Aaron McNallan, the Spartans — a team with just two seniors — are close to doubling their win total from last season after notching victory No. 11 with a 10-0 defeat of John Marshall in the regular season finale on Friday. Now, the Spartans are in search victory No. 12 when they take on No. 3 seed Owatonna as the No. 6 seed on Tuesday when an up-for-grabs Section 1AAAA tournament kicks off at 5 p.m.

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“You have Owatonna, Northfield and us that are four, five or six seed and I think all three of us can compete with the other three teams (Farmington, Lakeville North and South) in the cities too," McNallan said. "I think it’s kind of wide open. Every team can compete.”

After coaching summer travel ball for the past decade, McNallan admitted his fist season coaching varsity has been an adjustment.

He took over a team that had growing pains at times last year, but grew as the season wore on. But this season things have really clicked under McNallan.

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“Last year, we were really young. A lot of freshmen playing,” sophomore Alexa Carlstrom said. “So with that experience coming into this year, that really helps. But I think Aaron’s been really great at pushing us and also asking us for help, because he’s new to it too. But he’s just great at pushing us.”

Carlstrom has played a big part in Mayo’s success, being both solid in the circle and at the plate.

The sophomore has been the Spartans’ work horse, pitching more than 95 percent of the innings this year with a sub-2.40 ERA. She credits a more improved changeup and a higher confidence level when throwing her offspeed pitches. Yet, she also credits her senior catcher Raiven Heise for being her calming influence.

“We work really well together,” Carlstrom said. “She works really hard for me. She knows what I’m comfortable with throwing and we talk before games on what would work best pitching-wise against a team. She calms me down when I’m getting hit off of. We just work really well together.”
Heise has been just as great at the plate as well, hitting better than .470 as she and Carlstrom — who leads the team with 28 runs batted in and three home runs — anchor the middle of a lineup that starts at the top with Tiegan Mancuso. The junior centerfielder is arguably the fastest player in the area and is hitting a team-best .481 with 28 stolen bases.

With solid hitters Olivia McNallan, Hailey Lamers and Avery Werneburg — who homered against the Rockets — the Spartans can get off to quick starts and let Carlstrom and their defense do the rest.

The Section 1 softball pairings.

“Tiegan is so energetic,” Carlstrom said. “Super fast. That really helps us, especially generating offense in the first inning.”

The Spartans hope they can generate some quick offense against Owatonna on Tuesday. Mayo split a doubleheader with the Huskies back in the beginning of May. That loss along with tough defeats to top-five ranked Class AAA teams in Mankato East and Mankato West have been the only losses in Mayo’s past 10 games. It gives them a high confidence level heading into the postseason where anything can happen.

“We know we can compete,” McNallan said. “Hopefully, we take that confidence into sections and see what happens.”

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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