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Softball: Finally on the field, Albers excels

Zumbrota-Mazeppa's Brianna Albers takes a swing at a pitch during Thursday's Class 2A state quarterfinal game against St. Agnes at Caswell Park in North Mankato. Joe Brown / RiverTown Multimedia

NORTH MANKATO – Doubt didn't creep into Brianna Albers' mind.

With the breadth of talent the Zumbrota-Mazeppa lineup has had over the years, it was hard for Albers to crack the Cougars' lineup. The infield was stacked, so coach Kevin Nelson tried moving her to the outfield to no avail.

But Albers wasn't deterred.

“I knew the moment would come and I wanted to stick it out,” Albers said. “And I'm glad I did.”

In her final season, Albers found her spot as Z-M's second baseman. And in the process, she's become one of the Cougars' most feared hitters.

“You're so happy for a kid like that that stuck it out,” Nelson said. “And now she's going to have three chances to play at the state tournament as a senior. Not a lot of kids are going to be willing to do that over the years. … Both ends, she's worked her butt off.”

Prior to the state tournament, Albers was second on the team with a .388 batting average and 21 RBI. And in two state tournament games, she is 2-for-5 with two RBI and a run scored.

“I've been a little bit surprised,” Albers said about her success at the plate this year. “I'm pretty happy with how it's working out.”

Timing has been an important factor in strengthening her swing, Albers said.

“Mentally, you have to be ready. And coach always tells us, 'Think changeup, react fastball,'” Albers said. “So that's my motto when I go into it.”

On Nelson's end, Albers' improvement stems from being relaxed and confident, whether she steps into the batter's box or takes her spot in the field.

“The biggest thing for her is to focus and relax. She can sometimes get going so fast, she makes mistakes because of her speed,” Nelson said. “The game has slowed down for her so that's why she's become better.”

Doubt didn't creep into Albers' mind. Her goal has always been to help the team.

“I worked really hard and it's good to finally see everything work out,” she said. “Everything has kind of come full circle. It's been fun.”

And while she got just one season as a starter, Nelson sees her legacy lasting longer than that.

“Hopefully other kids will know her the next few years and use her as an example, and other kids will stick with it if they have doubt whether they're going to get a chance or not,” Nelson said.

Joe Brown

Joe Brown is the sports editor for the Red Wing Republican Eagle. Previously, he worked at the Marshall Independent and the St. Cloud Times. For updates on local sports, follow Joe on Twitter at @RE_JBrown.

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