PREP SOFTBALL: Red Rock softball teams ready for actionWORTHINGTON — The Red Rock conference for softball was strong last season and should continue its level of quality play this year.
WORTHINGTON — The Red Rock conference for softball was strong last season and should continue its level of quality play this year.
Murray County Central is the team to beat, as the Rebels went undefeated in conference play last year, winning the RRC title.
Edgerton, which is now paired with Southwest Christian, finished second in the conference in 2011 and was the only other team to advance past the first round of the playoffs last year.
Adrian, Mountain Lake/Butterfield-Odin and Red Rock Central/Westbrook-Walnut Grove finished in the middle of the conference pack and are looking to advance in the standings this year.
Rounding out the conference last year was Southwestern United. Although the team only won two games last season, that was a feat in an of itself and the Wildcats are thirsty for more this time around.
With the 2012 season already underway, each team is showing it has what it takes to improve from last year.
Murray County Central
The Murray County Central Rebels finished the 2011 season with a 16-5 record overall (10-0 Red Rock Conference) and were first in the overall conference standings.
After defeating Southwestern United, Edgerton and Renville County West in the section tournament, the Rebels dropped games to Kerkhoven-Murdock-Sunburg and Wabasso by scores of 22-7 and 12-10, respectively, to end their 2011 season.
This year, MCC is coached by James Wajer, who is in his ninth season coaching the Rebels.
MCC has several key starters returning to its lineup this year. Senior Makenzie Giese will play first base, senior Courtny Blomgren will play third base, junior Taylor Schreier will play shortstop, junior pitcher Ashley Clarke, freshman outfielder Jade Giese and junior outfielder Sophie Nepp all saw significant playing time last season.
The team is looking toward junior Michaela Hartle, sophomore Kenda Blomgren, sophomore Angela Dahlgren, sophomore Kristi Bose, sophomore Carlie Ludolph, sophomore Lissa Carlson, sophomore Bailey Jacobson, sophomore Abbey Lee and sophomore Mackenzie Schmitz to add depth to the Rebels’ roster this year.
“Our strengths entering the season would be that we’re returning the entire infield,” Wajer said. “We lost a lot of leadership last year and need to find ways to replace that this year. But our biggest improvement we need to make is to finish games better than we did last year.”
MCC’s first game of the season is Tuesday against Adrian.
The Edgerton Flying Dutchmen finished the 2011 season with a 10-9 record overall (6-4 Red Rock Conference) and were second in the overall conference standings.
After defeating Adrian 5-2 in the section tournament, the Flying Dutchmen fell to Murray County Central, to end their 2011 season.
This year, Edgerton has paired with Southwest Christian and is coached by Andrew Fleischman.
Although the two schools are pairing up for the first season, the team isn’t really that much different than last season. In fact, the softball team is made up entirely of Edgerton athletes.
And the team has a lot of veteren athletes this season. Jesse Valdez, Whitney Butson, Brittani Roskamp, Lindsey Drooger and Breana VanDyke represent the Flying Dutchmen’s senior class. Jessica Menning, Sarah Post, Amanda Schaap, Tara DeKam and Ciara Everett represent E/SWC’s juniors.
Kameron Kroh, Breanna Nelson and Tanner Gunnink, all freshman, round out the squad.
The Flying Dutchmen are 1-0 on the season thus far.
Their next game is Monday against Luverne.
The Adrian Dragons finished the 2011 season with a 9-8 overall record (6-4 Red Rock Conference) and were third in the overall conference standings.
The Dragons ended their 2011 season in the first round of the section tournament when they lost in extra innings to Edgerton 5-2.
This year, Adrian is coached by Dean Schnaible and Judy Huisman, who have been co-coaching the Dragons for four seasons.
There are several returning starters for Adrian this year.
Senior pitcher and shortstop Jessi Meyer (.393 batting average), senior Nina Weidert at third base (.388 batting average), junior pitcher and shortstop Rachel Kontz (.382 batting average), junior catcher Courtney Vaske (.396 batting average), junior Kayla Lonneman at first base (.417 batting average), junior centerfielder Harlie Homan (.339 batting average) and junior Sam Croat are all returning to the field for the Dragons.
“Our strengths are that we’re returning seven starters and have a veteran pitching staff,” Schniable said. “We should be solid offensively and defensively.”
Adrian is evaluating Heidi Nolte, Amber Preuss and Autumn Englekes for the remaining two positions on the field — second base and an outfield spot.
Schniable’s biggest concern for his team is its pitching consistency. The coach claims success in softball is 90 percent pitching, so the Dragon pitching staff will be key in putting their team in a position to win.
All in all, the team hopes to be a contender for the Red Rock Conference title this year.
“We want to have fun playing the game of softball,” Schniable said. “And we also want to put ourselves in position to win by being mentally prepared each and every game.”
Adrian is 0-3 on the season. Its next game is Tuesday against Murray County Central.
The Mountain Lake/Butterfield-Odin Wolverines finished the 2011 season with a 5-12 record overall (5-5 Red Rock Conference) and were fourth in the overall conference standings.
ML/B-O finished its 2011 season with a 14-4 loss to St. Clair in the first round of the section tournament.
This year, ML/B-O is coached by Dennis Stade.
The Wolverines’ strength this season is their depth. Their roster is 25 girls deep, nearly twice as large as most Red Rock Conference teams, giving the Wolverines plenty of options on the field.
ML/B-O has five seniors; Cecilia Reyes, Haley Hamilton, Natalie Junker, McKenzie Hopwood and Brianna Wenner. There are also 10 juniors on the team, eight sophomores and two freshmen.
The Wolverines are 1-2 so far on the season. Their next game is Tuesday against Edgerton/Southwest Christian.
The Red Rock Central/Westbrook-Walnut Grove Falcons finished the 2011 season with a 6-14 overall record (2-8 Red Rock Conference) and were fifth in the overall conference standings.
The Falcons ended their 2011 season in the first round of the section tournament when they lost to Pipestone Area 14-1.
This year, RRC/W-WG is coached by Derek Stevenson, who has been coaching the Falcons for eight seasons.
The Falcons have seven seniors on their roster this season and are returning several starters.
Klarissa Larsen, Katie Halter, Kendra Hagert, Aubrey Wilhite, Kali Davis, Katie Larsen, Angie Hanemann and Katie Dusek all started for RRC/W-WG last year.
“I hope that with seven seniors on the roster that we would have some decent defense and some decent bats in the lineup,” Stevenson said.
Stevenson is looking to Taylor Wilhite and Fern Engen to be key newcomers to the squad this season.
The team’s biggest concern is pitching, but despite that the team hopes to complete some upsets during the season.
“Our goals for the season would to try to be competitive in conference,” Stevenson said. “In the conference season I would hope that we would be in the middle of the pack with a chance to upset the MCC’s and Edgerton’s of the conference to maybe make a surprise move in the conference.”
The Falcons are 0-2 on the season. Their next game is Tuesday against Southwestern United.
The Southwestern United Wildcats finished the 2011 season with a 2-16 overall record (1-9 Red Rock Conference) and were last in the overall conference standings.
The Wildcats ended their 2011 season in the first round of the section tournament when they lost to Murray County Central 12-1. One of their two wins came in the play-in game of the section tournament when SWU defeated Tracy-Milroy-Balaton 8-7.
This year, SWU is coached by Cindy Owen, who is in her second season of coaching the Wildcats.
Returning players to the team include senior Connor DeWall, who plays first base. She is a three year all-conference player. Janae Vonk plays second base, Alaina Klingenberg is in center field, Ida Rogers-Ferguson will pitch, Kayla Droll will catch, Sonja Peters will be at third base and Maddie Rasche will return for the Wildcats at shortstop.
In addition to the returning starters, junior Jenny Jimenez will be playing outfield, senior Jordin Elness will pitch and play outfield and junior Kassaundra Rossow will pitch as well.
“The team has a great attitude,” Owen said. “They continue to work hard each and every practice.”
Last season, SWU was three days away from having a three-year losing streak.
The team’s biggest concern this year is its defense. Owen said the Wildcats need to be consistent on the field if they want to improve their record from last year.
“We need to attack the ball and continue to work hard day in and day out,” Owen said. “We really need to play consistently.”
The Wildcats are 0-1 so far this year. Their next game is Tuesday against Red Rock Central/Westbrook-Walnut Grove.
Daily Globe Sports Reporter Jocelyn Syrstad can be reached at 376-7335.