Softball notebook: Suddenly all smilesRed Wing coach Cheryl Borgen was as frustrated as her team three short weeks ago. Nearly every player had settled into a troubling routine: swing, miss, look at Borgen for signs. She saw resigned defeat etched on her players’ faces more often than not. Seemingly powerless to halt the slide, Borgen might as well have been an extra in Bill Murray’s classic “Groundhog Day.”
By: Brett Boese, The Republican Eagle
Red Wing coach Cheryl Borgen was as frustrated as her team three short weeks ago. Nearly every player had settled into a troubling routine: swing, miss, look at Borgen for signs. She saw resigned defeat etched on her players’ faces more often than not.
Seemingly powerless to halt the slide, Borgen might as well have been an extra in Bill Murray’s classic “Groundhog Day.”
“We knew what to expect and we expected to lose, frankly,” Borgen said.
But everything changed with one weekend tournament at Edina.
The Wingers won all three games, starting a stretch where they won seven of eight. Suddenly, the 1-10 start seemed a distant memory.
The turnaround began with a simple phrase from Borgen. Prior to the games in Edina, she started telling her team to “Expect it.”
Expect to get a hit. Expect to make the defensive play. Expect to win.
The confidence that mantra has created is palpable.
“It’s radiating off everyone,” junior captain Sarah Walch said.
A number of minor tweaks helped key the surge.
Eighth-grader Lydia Wagner has been installed behind the plate, moving Walch to first base and opening up a bigger role for junior Stacy Carlson at third base.
The adjustments solidified the infield and cut down on the opponents’ running game; Walch’s arm was tested almost three times as often as Wagner’s has been thus far.
Speedy senior Amanda Faas has also seen more playing time as Borgen has tried to be more aggressive on the bases. The new approach has paid off in a big way.
Early in the season Borgen was hesitant to take advantage of her team’s athleticism. With the hits coming few and far between — junior Kirstin Bigelbach was the only one hitting above .300 prior to Edina — the reluctance to make outs on the base paths seemed justified.
Since Borgen decided to unleash the hounds, however, the entire outlook of the team has been transformed.
Red Wing was outscored 5.9-2.6 in its 1-10 start, but has outscored its opponents 5-2.3 in the last 10 games.
Five batters have hit over .300 during that span, while Bigelbach and Morgan Bohmbach have often dominated in the circle.
Clearly, the attitude has been welcomed with open arms.
“Being more aggressive on the bases helps me relax,” said junior shortstop Megan Fleming.
The stats make it clear she isn’t alone. Others have been forced to take notice, as well. Red Wing received the No. 7 seed in the Section 1AAA Tournament on Sunday. It’s the highest the Wingers have been seeded in Borgen’s five-year coaching tenure.
While the draw was tough — they’ll play No. 10 Austin on the Packers’ home field — the Wingers remain confident in their new-found chemistry. Afterall, their last three losses — which have come by five total runs — are against teams with a combined record of 45-14.
“This is the team I expected to have at the start of the year,” Borgen said.