Players to watch in this year's Section 1 softball playoffs
Once again, Section 1, from Class A to AAAA is as competitive as ever, with a number of teams capable of making deep postseason runs.
ROCHESTER — It's hard to believe, but the high school softball postseason is officially here.
Mother nature did it's best to disrupt many teams across the state, resulting in essentially what was a five-week regular season. Many teams were lucky to get more than 15 games in. Regardless, playoff time is here and like always many area teams have their sights set on a deep postseason run.
Here are some players to watch make that happen:
Laney Weis, Southland
The Rebels are eyeing their first state appearance since 1995 and Weis is a major reason why. She has a 1.31 ERA in 85 ⅔ innings with an incredible 179 strikeouts. It has resulted in a 15-1 record on the year for the Southeast Conference champions and is also hitting a team-best .426 with seven doubles.
Lilly Carr, Houston
Like Weis, Carr has done a little bit of everything for the Hurricanes, who have just three losses, two against Southland. Houston started the season 12-0 with Carr consistently doing damage in the circle and at the plate. It’s one of the reasons Houston should not be overlooked in a wide open Section 1A field.
Brenna Koeppel, St. Charles
Arguably the most dominant pitcher in Class AA this season, the senior right-hander allowed just 12 earned runs while striking out 155 in 111 innings pitched. She has rewritten the program record books, setting a new mark in career wins (49) and strikeouts (517). She is a reason why the No. 1 ranked Saints are eyeing a deep postseason run.
Claire Springer, Chatfield
Springer was terrific during the Gophers state title run a season ago, seemingly notching zero after zero as Chatfield captured the program’s first state championship. The UW-La Crosse commit hopes to do it again for a Chatfield team that is flying a bit under the radar at 13-5 entering section play with a seven-game win streak.
Madison Hazelton, Winona Cotter
The junior right-hander has had multiple no-hitters this year and recently notched her 500th career strikeout. Overall, she has allowed just 16 earned runs on just 39 hits with 115 strikeouts in 75 innings. She is also hitting .452 with a .582 on-base percentage at the dish for Pat Bowlin’s squad.
Camryn Kovars, Zumbrota-Mazeppa
Zumbrota-Mazeppa surprised many around the area, capturing the Hiawatha Valley League title. Kovars was a big reason why. She was money all season long for the Cougars, both in the circle and at the dish. The latest evidence came last Thursday when she finished 3-for-3 at the plate and allowed just one run in 5 ⅓ innings to pick up the win in the HVL clinching 2-1 victory over Byron.
Makayla Steffes, Winona
The Saint Mary’s University commit started her season with two no-hitters and hasn’t looked back since for the No. 2 ranked Winhawks, who are seeking their third consecutive trip to the Class AAA state championship. This time, they intend to capture their second championship. Steffes has Winona feeling good, she is 9-0, having allowed just one earned run in 59 ⅔ innings. She teams up with Ava Hamsund to give Winona a 1, 2 combination few can match not only in Section 1AAA, but in the state. They both have an ERA under one in over 50 innings pitched. Steffes is also hitting .452 at the plate with eight doubles and 23 RBIs.
Macy Borowski, Byron
Borowski is right up there with Steffes as one of the best two-way players in the area. The Brown University commit has allowed just six earned runs in 79 ⅓ innings and has struck out 168 to just 17 walks. She is one of the most feared at the plate as well with seven home runs and a batting average well over .500.
Ella Babcock, Kasson-Mantorville
Another standout two-way player, Babcock has been the ace for the KoMets for the second year in a row. She has a sub 2.40 ERA and has a batting average over .360 with an OBP well over .400 for the KoMets, who made the Section 1AAA final a year ago.
Morgan Erickson, Century
Erickson has done a little bit of everything for a surging Panthers team. The junior is hitting over .400 with an OBP of over .500 as Century's leadoff hitter. She also has been great in the circle with a sub 1.50 ERA.
Tiegan Mancuso, Mayo
Arguably the fastest player in the area, the Winona State University commit is as automatic of a base-stealer as one will find. She has paired that with good pop in her bat and is solid in the field, wherever the Spartans need her.
Courtney Graff, Northfield
One of the top hitters in the Big Nine Conference, Graff is hitting an impressive .480 with a an OBP over .550 with four home runs and four triples. She has an eye-popping OPS over 1.500 for the Raiders, who enter as one of the favorites in an open section.
Kennedy Hodgman, Owatonna
Hodgman has been great in the circle for the Huskies. She recently struck out 10 in seven shutout innings in a 7-0 win over Albert Lea on Thursday. This came two days after delivering seven shutout innings against Kasson-Mantorville.