Cougars gear up for another title runThis is the first installment of season previews of area softball teams. Cannon Falls begins play Thursday against Kasson-Mantorville. Lake City opens up play April 2 against Plainview-Elgin-Millville. Ellsworth begins play April 3 against Glenwood City, while Zumbrota-Mazeppa faces Goodhue April 5.
By: Nick Gerhardt, The Republican Eagle
This is the first installment of season previews of area softball teams.
Cannon Falls begins play Thursday against Kasson-Mantorville. Lake City opens up play April 2 against Plainview-Elgin-Millville. Ellsworth begins play April 3 against Glenwood City, while Zumbrota-Mazeppa faces Goodhue April 5.
2011 record: 8-11, 5-8 HVL
Key returning players: Brooke Bitzen, Emily Ryan, Ashlyn Stecklein, Sharece Hahn, Paige Gadient, Laurie Peters, Emilee Roschen, Meredith Watson, Mikayla Miller
Key losses: Anne Lodermeier, Katie Charbonneau, Meta Stern
After an 8-11 season Goodhue softball head coach Chris Irvin said the team is eager to improve upon last season. The Wildcats return several players entering their second year of varsity play and the team has added depth, Irvin said.
Senior captains Brooke Bitzan and Emily Ryan will lead Goodhue this season and the team will rely on their leadership as it mixes in a group of underclassmen with veteran players.
“Brooke is such a smart player,” Irvin said. “It’s almost like having a coach on the field, which shouldn’t be a big surprise since her father, Robert, was a long-time head baseball coach in Goodhue.”
The biggest question mark for the Wildcats comes in the pitching department. Goodhue returns two sophomores who threw few varsity innings last season. Emilee Roschen and Laurie Pearson will assume the pitching duties this season.
The Wildcats will have to adjust to playing without all-conference athlete Anne Lodermeier. Lodermeier pitched 84 innings last season in her senior year and hit .375.
2011 record: 13-7, 11-3 Middle Border
Key returning players: Mariah Diercks, Halle Hatch, Taylor Nelson
Key losses: Kayla Christopherson, Allison Freier, Becca Chollett
The middle of the order for the Ellsworth softball team will have a different look this season as the Panthers will shuffle hitters after graduating four-time all-conference winner Kayla Christopherson and two-time all-conference winners Allison Freier and Becca Chollett. Christopherson hit .407 and drove in 21 runs and that offense will be missed.
Ellsworth does return all-conference selections in Mariah Diercks and Halle Hatch. Diercks is returning after missing last season due to a concussion and other injuries. She earned all-conference honorable mention after her sophomore season as a pitcher and infielder.
Hatch will return to the circle as well for the Panthers. Hatch went 9-3 last season with a 1.40 ERA.
“I expect all returning letterwinners to come to the season in shape and ready to contribute to the team,” head coach Ryan Casper said. “We are in the process of evaluating our younger talent to help out on the varsity squad.”
Ellsworth plays its first conference game of the season April 5 against Durand and plays defending conference champ and state runner-up Baldwin-Woodville April 15.
2011 record: 23-4, 13-0 HVL
Key returning players: Megan Nelson, Amber Jentsch, Nasha Reuter, Carley Henning
Key losses: Julia Niebuhr, Jamie St. Marie, Kacy Mitchell, Carissa Darcy
Zumbrota-Mazeppa returned to the Class 2A state tournament for the third time in four years last season after a 23-4 record. It was the second consecutive season the Cougars made the tournament and they went on to finish fifth, beating Albany 7-5 in the fifth-place game.
Z-M returns the bulk of the roster from last year’s team, including all-state players Megan Nelson and Amber Jentsch. Nelson is a two-time all-state selection.
Nelson, a senior, handles the pitching duties capably. Last season Nelson finished with a 16-3 record with 103 strikeouts, a 2.06 ERA and 37 walks. Nelson can also get it done at the plate. Nelson hit .420 with 11 doubles and scored 30 runs.
Jetsch, a junior, can also do some damage at the dish. As a sophomore she hit .476, belted four home runs and scored 26 runs.
The Cougars also have hitters in senior catcher Nasha Reuter, who hit .287 and earned all-conference honors last season, and sophomore outfielder Carley Henning. Henning hit .365 with three home runs last season.
Z-M will have some offense this season, but it must replace the entire left side of the field. The Cougars graduated their starting left fielder, center fielder, third baseman and shortstop.
Head coach Kevin Nelson does have some up-and-coming athletes in the fold. Nelson said he expects improvement from freshman Tayler Mort and senior Cait Gunhus, who enters her second varsity season. Z-M will also bring in junior Lydia Wagner, who sat out last season after transferring to Z-M from Red Wing.
Lake City Tigers
2011 record: 4-22, 2-16 HVL
Key returning players: Alexa Blair, Marissa McCormick, Amy Dudley, Kyllie Smith, Domonique Oelkers, Maddie Breuer
Key losses: Taylor Bremer, Heather Marking
Lake City enters the 2012 season with a large class of juniors and three seniors after a 4-22 season a year ago.
Head coach Katie Luhmann wants the team to dictate the pace of the game more this season.
“Our philosophy is to play hard from beginning to end and never give up in between,” Luhmann said. “This year our style of play is to play with high intensity right away and to sustain that throughout the game.”
The Tigers bring back starting pitcher Alexa Blair along with key contributors Marissa McCormick and Kyllie Smith. McCormick hit .310 last season with nine runs and two RBI.
Smith led the team with 10 RBI. and hit .241 at third base.
The second installment of area softball previews will appear in Wednesday’s edition.