Surrounded by their 'sea of orange,’ experienced Randolph seeking state softball title

The Randolph Rockets made an unexpected state run a season ago, but now have their sights set on their second state title in three seasons.

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Randolph junior Carly Kimmes high-fives coach Dennis Trom after hitting a home run earlier this season. Kimmes and Randolph are seeking the program's second state title in three years.
Contributed / Rebecca Blonigen, Keri Berquam

RANDOLPH — It’s not difficult to find the Randolph softball supporters, even in the zoo that is Caswell Park at state tournament time.

For starters, the number stands out.

One would think the whole town was there as they fill the stands and sprawl out down one of the baselines. And they all wear bright, neon-like orange and make a world of difference.

“Our community really rallies around all of us,” All-State infielder Carly Kimmes said. “If we send out a fundraiser, everyone in the community is sending it to all these other different cities. Everyone's pitching in. And then coach (Dennis) Trom always loves a sea of orange. Orange is Randolph’s color and just seeing our community coming together and supporting us at all of our games and for the past couple years that we've been at state, we're always like 'oh, the sea of orange' and when other teams see all this orange, they're like, ‘oh, they're from Randolph,’ because no other team has like a community like us.”

A young Rockets squad got to witness that "sea of orange" first-hand after making a somewhat unexpected run last season.


In fact, coach Dennis Trom wasn’t shy in admitting he had his own question marks when it came to an inexperienced squad a year ago.

After all, the team had just lost 10 seniors — seven starters — that had officially put Randolph softball on the map with a state title in 2021. That included standout pitcher Morgyn Otte — a Ms. Softball finalist who now pitches at Southwest Minnesota State University in Marshall.

Filling her shoes was freshman Carter Raymond — one of many underclassmen who were expected to fill key roles. So Trom did his best to temper expectations a bit.

“We weren't real sure what — we knew we had good kids coming back,” Trom said. “But we didn't know ... I didn't know how Carter was going to be on the mound. I didn’t know how a bunch of freshman (would acclimate to the varsity).”

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Randolph sophomore Carter Raymond fires a pitch during a game earlier this season.
Contributed / Rebecca Blonigen, Keri Berquam

Trom was up front about that with his two standouts — Kimmes and Raymond. Yet, it didn’t take long for Kimmes to realize that her coach had nothing to fear. It turns out this group was more than ready.

“We started the season off and coach Trom talked to me and Carter and he was like, 'hey, we're not sure what we are going to have this year' and personally I had never really seen any of these other girls play before for us,” Kimmes said. “I'm like, 'OK, let's just try our best this year, whatever happens, happens.' Nobody was really expecting us to do anything. And all of a sudden, we get two weeks into the season and I'm like, 'Oh, we could really be good this year. We could actually go somewhere.'"

Kimmes’ hunch was right.

The Rockets blew away nearly everyone’s expectations, capturing another Gopher Conference title en route to the program’s fourth consecutive trip to the state tournament.


Surrounded by their sea of orange, the young Rockets surged into the Class A state semifinals, where the young roster stood out to their competitors.

“We get to the state tournament and one of the opposing coaches goes, ‘What, you have, like, seven freshmen starting,’” Trom said. “I said we have six with one sophomore but you know, he goes whatever you guys are doing down there with the fountain of youth, I have to know.”

The Rockets lost a heartbreaker in the Class A state semifinals as Moose Lake/Willow River walked it off in the bottom of the seventh for the 3-2 win. Yet, Randolph did bounce back to place third in a season that many would have just been happy to win a few games in the section tournament.

It’s the exact opposite this year.

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Randolph junior Carly Kimmes attempts to throw out a base runner during a game earlier this season.
Contributed / Rebecca Blonigen, Keri Berquam

The expectations have ramped up with Randolph being ranked No. 1 in Class A in the Breakdown’s annual preseason high school softball rankings. At times, this group has felt the pressure.

"It’s harder this year and just different, especially when you're ranked number one,” Kimmes said. “Everyone's chasing after you and I just feel like we're starting to crack down and be like, ‘OK, let's just focus on one day at a time. Let's not think about our record. Let's not think about the rankings. Let's just focus on us and just do the right thing to the right place. Just be good people in general and show everyone that even though we are ranked number one, we're not going to be cocky. We're not going to express ourselves. We're just going to play the game of softball.'”

The Rockets have done just that all season long.

They are 17-1 with their only loss coming to Class AAA St. Anthony Village back on May 6. They have an average margin of victory of 10 runs a game, with an average of 11 runs scored per game.


Of course, Kimmes has played a large role in that success.

The junior and Minnesota State University, Mankato, commit’s numbers are video game-like. She's hitting .508 with an on-base percentage of .556 and an an incredible .600 slugging percentage. She has nine doubles, three triples and three homers with a team-best 28 RBIs.

“Carly is the ultimate leadoff hitter,” said Trom, who recently won his 150th game at the helm of the Rockets. “She started as a ninth-grader at shortstop for me and has just taken off from there. She's just taken over. She sets the tone for every one of our games. The other night she stepped up first pitch, bam, well over over the fence. It sets the tone for everybody, or she gets a base hit and then we bunt her to second and she ends up at third. ... I always kind of pinch myself and think that she's only a junior and I got her for another year.

“I don't know if I will ever — I hope, but I don't know if — I'll ever find a better lead-off hitter.”

Kimmes is quick to credit her teammates, though, specifically Raymond, who has put up her own eye-popping stats in the circle.

The freshman is 17-1, allowing just 14 earned runs with 173 strikeouts to just seven walks in 101 innings pitched.

“Carter wants to be one of the top players and I appreciate that because teams need that, we need that and teams need to see this Randolph team have that,” Kimmes said. “She pushes all of us in practice, but she is just someone that is very encouraging. She just wants us to succeed. She wants us to do better than last year.”

That’s the mission now with their Section 4A postseason starting Saturday at Rockford High School, where a sea of orange is expected.

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
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