Rochester high school softball season preview


Head Coach:Stephanie Barton, 1st season.

Assistant coaches:Megan Bracken, Rachel Stifter, Nicole Pittenger.

Last year:Century finished 4-13 in the Big Nine Conference, 7-15 overall. Century had a 1-1 record at the section tournament.

Outlook:Stephanie Barton takes over as the head coach after Tim Strain stepped down following the 2011 season. Barton inherits a team that is very young. The Panthers have just one senior and two juniors on the squad. The varsity figures to be made up of 12 players, including four sophomores, four freshmen and an eighth-grader.


The lone senior back is pitcher Hannah Kuisle. Junior shortstop Morgan Hartman and junior center fielder Deleonne Clark were also starters a year ago. Three others who appear to have starting spots locked up are sophomore right fielder Abigail Kuisle, freshmen first basemen Morgan Hazelton and eighth-grader catcher Frankie Mickelson.

Barton and her coaching staff have been learning about the players and Big Nine as the season is closing in. The coach said a goal was to have enough players to field three teams at the high school level, a varsity, junior varsity and C squad. "We succeeded," Barton said. "We now want to become contenders in the Big Nine and show our passion for the game."

The youthful Panthers do not figure to contend for a league title this spring. "Hannah, our lone senior, told us, Austin and Faribault are always good," Barton said. "Mayo and JM are great hitters. Winona, Owatonna and Albert Lea are tough. Mankato East and West are always contenders for the top of the conference."

Coach's quote:"We are a young group, however we have great leadership from our three upperclassmen," Barton said. "They are doing a great job mentoring and passing on their knowledge and wisdom to the rest of the team."


Senior:Hannah Kuisle (P). Juniors:Morgan Hartman (SS), Deleonne Clark (CF). Sophomores:Abigail Kuisle (RF), Taylor Monnet (2B), Michala Feigal (U), Megan Haas (OF). Freshman:Morgan Hazelton (1B), Morgan Wilson (SS), Mikayla Eichen (2B), Kaiulani Gathje (U). Eighth-grader: Francesca Mickelson (C).


April 10— Albert Lea, 5 p.m.


April 12— Owatonna (2), 4 p.m.

April 17— at Mankato East, 5 p.m.

April 19— at Mayo (2), 5 p.m.

April 21—  at Champlin Park, 11 a.m.

April 24— John Marshall, 5 p.m.

April 26— Winona (2), 4 p.m.

May 3— at Mankato West (2), 4 p.m.

May 5— at John Marshall, 1 p.m.


May 8— Faribault, 5 p.m.

May 9— at Red Wing, 5 p.m.

May 11— vs. Farmington, 3:45 p.m., vs. Northfield, 5:15 p.m.

May 14— at Austin, 5 p.m.

May 18—  Big Nine Tournament at Austin, 4:30 p.m.

May 23— Section 1AAA at high seed, 5:30 p.m.

May 25, 29, 31— Section 1AAA at Austin, TBA

June 7-8— Class AAA State Tournament at North Mankato, TBA



Head coach: Clint Thome, 2nd season.

Assistant coaches:Mark Hindal, Josh Conley, Mitch Rohloff.

Last year:Mayo finished 13-11 overall. The Spartans were fourth in the Big Nine with a 9-8 mark and placed third in the section tournament.

Outlook:The Spartans return both of their pitchers from a year ago, Jacqueline Cliby and lefty Virginia Brust, who also plays first base. "That will be our strength this year, those two senior pitchers," coach Clint Thome said. "We're looking for them for the leadership role."

Third baseman Makinzee Kazeck and shortstop Laura Henderson, just a sophomore, were both all-conference a year ago while catcher Anna Brakke was an honorable mention pick. Outfielder turned second baseman Gabrielle Laures also returns as a starter and left fielder Melissa Conger was a part-time starter in 2011.

Kazeck (former second baseman) and Henderson (former third baseman) also shift infield positions from a year ago. Sophomore Kali Aldrich takes over in right and center field is still up for grabs.

Thome says the Spartans will feature several strong hitters and good overall speed. "We have to be able to hit better and score more runs," Thome said. "We lost eight games by one run last year."


The coach says the Spartans are ahead of where they were at this stage a year ago. He expects Mankato East and West to be the teams to beat in the Big Nine. Hastings, the defending Class AAA state champion, lost a number of good players but still figures to be the team to beat in the Section 1AAA.

Coach's quote:"We feel we have a pretty decent team," Thome said. "I feel we have a chance to finish in the upper half of  the Big Nine, third or fourth."


Seniors:Makinzee Kazeck (3B/2B), Gabrielle Laures (OF), Melissa Conger (OF), Virginia Brust (P/1B), Jacqueline Cliby (P), Emma Hermes (OF). Juniors:Anna Brakke (C), Kelly Meinhardt (2B). Sophomores:Laura Henderson (SS), Kali Aldrich (2B/P), Emily Hindal (P), Sydney Gray (OF/C). Freshman:Madeline Dostal (P).


April 10— Mankato East, 5 p.m.

April 13— Stewartville, 5 p.m.

April 17— at Faribault, 5 p.m.


April 19— Century (2), 5 p.m.

April 20— Farmington, 5 p.m.

April 24— Albert Lea, 5 p.m.

April 26— at Owatonna (2), 4 p.m.

April 27— at Austin Invitational, 5 and 7 p.m.

April 28— at Austin Invitational, 10 a.m.

May 1—  at Kasson-Mantorville, 5 p.m.

May 3— at Winona (2), 4 p.m.

May 8— Austin, 5 p.m.

May 10— Mankato West (2), 4 p.m.

May 15— at John Marshall, 5 p.m.

May 18— Big Nine Conference Tournament at Austin, 4:30 p.m.

May 23— Section 1AAA at high seed, 5:30 p.m.

May 25, 29, 31— Section 1AAA at Austin, TBA

June 7-8— Class AAA State Tournament at North Mankato, TBA


Head coach: Thang Nguyen, 11th season.

Assistant coaches:Brendan Adams, Alyssa Mackey, Don Jochum.

Last year:John Marshall finished 17-8 in the Big Nine Conference,12-5 overall. JM placed second in the Section 1AAA tournament, losing to Hastings in the title game. Hasting went on to win the Class AAA state title.

Outlook:The hard-hitting Rockets have five full-time starters back from last year's successful team. All-Big Nine players Nicole Kraushaar, the left fielder (.350, 2 home runs), and first baseman Lizzy Hazard (.400) head the list of returnees along with honorable mention pick Lauren Kalwasinski, the shortstop (.350). Those three were the Rockets' top hitters from a year ago.

"We have good experience, good leadership coming back from last year," coach Thang Nguyen said. "We hope it can carry over."

Catcher Robyn Miller and Jamie Schacht in center field are also returning starters. Kristen Erickson was the No. 2 pitcher a year ago and she takes over as the top hurler this season while sophomore Katie Boldt is the second pitcher.

Twins Sarah Eckerman and Katy Eckerman figure to be the starting second and third baseman. Ashley Jochum has the edge to start in right.

Nguyen says the Rockets must improve their defense to be a league contender.

"Pitching should be a strength and we're looking for consistency on offense," Nguyen said. "We're hoping to be among the (Big Nine) contenders."

The coach lists Mankato East and West as the teams to beat in the Big Nine and Hastings as the team to beat in Section 1AAA.

Coach's quote:"We have very good depth," Nguyen said. "And with eight seniors back, we have a lot of quality leadership."


Seniors:Katy Eckerman (OF), Lizzy Hazard (1B), Jamie Schacht (CF), Nicole Kraushaar (OF), Katie Krull (OF), Robyn Miller (C), Laura Van Vooren (OF), Sarah Eckerman (IF). Juniors:Laura Kalwasinski (SS), Kristen Erickson (P), Erin Meyers (C), Haley Jochum (OF), Blair Lebeck (IF). Sophomores:Katie Boldt (P), Rachel Karp (IF), Ashley Jochum (IF), Haley Holtorf (OF).


April 10— at Mankato West, 5 p.m.

April 17— Winona (2), 4 p.m.

April 20— Red Wing, 5 p.m.

April 24— at Century, 5 p.m.

April 26— at Austin (2), 4:30 p.m.

April 28— at Lourdes Invitational, 9 a.m.

May 1— Mankato East (2), 4 p.m.

May 3— at Faribault (2), 4 p.m.

May 5— Century, 1 p.m.

May 8— at Owatonna, 7 p.m.

May 15— Mayo, 5 p.m.

May 18—  Big Nine Tournament at Austin, 4:30 p.m.

May 23— Section 1AAA at high seed, 5:30 p.m.

May 25, 29, 31— Section 1AAA at Austin, TBA

June 7-8— Class AAA State Tournament at North Mankato, TBA


Head coach:Becky Macken, 2nd season.

Assistant coaches:Mike Macken, Jaimi Stejskal Kent, Eric Averbeck.

Last year:The Eagles were 15-6 overall placed fourth in the Hiawatha Valley League.

Outlook:The Eagles are loaded with experience as all starters return, including eight seniors. With the largest senior class in program history, Lourdes might be primed to compete for an HVL title.

Shortstop Sam Macken has been the team MVP for two consecutive years and was named honorable mention All-State team. Third baseman Nicole Nelson led the team in hitting at .486 and and has more than 100 career hits. Macken is five hits away from 100 hits as a junior. Macken and Nelson were 1AA All-Section. Macken, Nelson and sister Hannah Nelson, the catcher, were HVL all-conference. Nicole and Hannah Nelson are triplets and Alyssa is the starting center fielder.

Offense will be a strength as the Eagles hit .392 in 2011 and averaged more than nine runs per game while giving up five. Defensively, the Eagles will be three deep at each position. During the offseason the majority of the team played 58 open league games in the Metro area and the team placed 13th out of 55 teams at a national tournament.

"We are looking forward to our Apirl 14 tournament in Mankato where we open with Burnsville and have the opportunity to see how we stack up against the challenge of some AAA teams," coach Becky Macken said.

Senior Morgan Maiers will handle the pitching duties along with Kelly Bier. Maiers has pitched over 360 innings in her career and has team records for wins and fewest errors. Biers will also see action at first base.

Other returning starters are first basman Rebecca Garry, second baseman Danielle Freetly and outfielders Carly Bjork and Katie Greve.

Coach's quote:"I expect Z-M, Pine Island and Cotter to be strong in our conference," coach Becky Macken said. "We see many of the same girls all summer long, and it provides a very competitive opportunity for the players. The HVL is an incredibly strong conference. Our goal is to a contender."


Seniors:Morgan Maiers (P), Hannah Nelson (C), Rebecca Garry (1B), Danielle Freetly (2B), Nicole Nelson (3B), Carly Bjork (LF), Alyssa Nelson (CF), Katie Greve (RF) Juniors:Sam Macken (SS), Kelly Bier (P/1B), Anna Maiers (OF) Michaela Wermers (OF).


(Home games at Soldiers Field, unless noted)

April 10— at Kasson-Mantorville, 5 p.m.

April 12— at Kenyon-Wanamingo, 5 p.m.

April 14— at Mankato West Invitational, 10 a.m.

April 17— Winona Cotter, 5 p.m.

April 19— at La Crescent, 5 p.m.

April 23— Zumbrota-Mazeppa, 5 p.m.

April 26— Lake City, 5 p.m.

April 28— Lourdes Invitational, Rochester Fastpitch Complex, 9 a.m.

April 30— Triton, 5 p.m.

May 3— Goodhue, 5 p.m.

May 8— at Cannon Falls, 5 p.m.

May 11— at Pine Island, 5 p.m.

May 15— Stewartville, 5 p.m.

May 17— Houston, 4:30 p.m.

May 18— Byron, 5 p.m.

May 24, 26— Subsection 1AA at Pine Island

May 29, 31— Section 1AA at Austin, TBA

June 7-8— Class AA State Tournament at North Mankato, TBA

— Guy N. Limbeck

What To Read Next
Get Local