Section softball: Arrows are still sharp, focused
PIPESTONE — If Nostradamus were alive today, and if he would have told you last spring that the 2014 Pipestone Arrows softball team would be undefeated heading into the semifinals of the Section 3AA tournament, you would have thought two things:
No. 1, you would ask why the 16th century French apothecary and famous forecaster — who purportedly predicted the Great Fire of London and the rise of Napoleon — would care so much about what happens to a high school softball squad.
No. 2, you would laugh regardless. After all, the 2013 Arrows graduated seven starters off a team that compiled a 19-3 record.Ah, but of course, the Arrows are indeed undefeated on May 24, 2014. They are 20-0 after finishing off their second consecutive perfect record (12-0) in the Southwest Conference.How did the Arrows get to this point?“The kids worked very hard and got better every day. We’re still very young,” said head coach Troy Bouman this week. “They put their time in and worked at it. The seniors have been very good leaders.“The biggest thing is defensive. We don’t make a lot of mistakes defensively.”The 2014 Pipestone Area lineup consists of a healthy spattering of seniors mixed in with juniors, sophomores, freshmen and even an eighth-grader. That eighth-grader, Shelby Bloemendaal, happens to be the team’s ace pitcher.Bloemendaal isn’t a big strikeout pitcher. She has good control and keeps the ball down, however, which leads to a lot of ground balls.Bouman’s other dependable pitcher is a senior, Kelly Nettik, who possesses an excellent change-up.The only returning starters — Nettik and fellow senior Brittany Evans — are the team’s top two hitters. Nettik is the school’s career home run hitter and sports a batting average of over .400. Evans is batting over .600 and she has stolen more than 50 bases this spring.Another senior, Libby Schneider, took over catching duties for the first time this year, and is also credited with keeping the Arrows playing at a high level.Pipestone Area lost to New Ulm in the Section 3AA finals last year, but Bouman said this year’s version is not looking ahead.Championship bracket semifinal tournament action today (May 24) has Pipestone Area taking on Gibbon-Fairfax-Winthrop at 12:30 p.m. in Marshall. The other game (also at 12:30 p.m. in Marshall) pits Marshall against New Ulm.Pipestone Area is seeded No. 1 in the south section of the tournament, and G-F-W is No. 3 in the north. Marshall is the top-seeded team from the north, and New Ulm is seeded No. 2 in the south.Bouman says the one-game-at-a-time approach has worked well for the Arrows thus far.“We want to go out and play as well as we can play. That’s all you control,” he said.