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College softball: Lady Jays have new coach, new optimism

WORTHINGTON -- Four years ago Sam Lynn was lacing up her cleats and digging into batters boxes throughout the region as a member of the Minnesota West softball team. Now, having graduated from Southwest Minnesota State University and gotten a tea...

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ZACH HACKER/DAILY GLOBE Becca Linder (right) fires a throw to Bailey Tish at first base at practice this week. The Minnesota West softball team opens its season at 3 p.m. today in Rosemount.

 

WORTHINGTON - Four years ago Sam Lynn was lacing up her cleats and digging into batters boxes throughout the region as a member of the Minnesota West softball team.
Now, having graduated from Southwest Minnesota State University and gotten a teaching job in Fulda, she’s a Bluejay once again. But this time, instead of donning a glove and batting helmet, she’s rocking a whistle and scorebook as the team’s head coach.
“It feels really good,” Lynn said. “I had a really great experience when I was here so I’m glad to be back. It’s kind of weird being on the other end now, but the girls have all been really fun to work with so far.”
Lynn takes over this season for Rosalie Hayenga-Hostikka, who stepped down after 10 years at the helm shortly after the 2014 season had ended. This is Lynn’s first head coaching gig, but she is far from the only thing new about this season’s Lady Jays squad.
Of the 12 players on this year’s roster, 11 of them are newcomers. Sophomore first baseman Bailey Tish is the only returning player from last season’s squad that finished 8-27. Making matters even more interesting, when practice began three weeks ago Tish - along with freshman teammates Sonja Peters and Dani Hermeling - were unable to be there as they were preparing to join the Lady Jays basketball team at the NJCAA Division III National Tournament. It wasn’t until Monday that the squad was finally complete.
None of that held West back from getting its season into gear.
“These first two or three weeks have been very good,” Lynn said. “They’ve all been really positive and I think they’ve done a good job of working as a team. We’re excited to get a game under our belts and I’m pleased with what I’ve seen so far.”
With only 12 players, Lynn admitted that numbers could be an issue if girls have problems with injuries or illness. Though the numbers are low on the team as a whole, the group is deep at one key position: pitcher. Rebecca Kazemba, Becca Linder and Paige Kinley all are likely to see time in the circle this season.
That, along with her team’s overall work ethic, are two things that keep Lynn upbeat about what her team can accomplish this spring.
“They work hard, they have a great attitude and they’re willing to do whatever it takes,” she said of her team. “It’s a big plus that we have three girls that can throw. Not a lot of teams have that. We just need to stay healthy and positive. After that everything will work itself out.”
The Lady Jays open their season at 3 p.m. today at the Irish Dome Tournament in Rosemount. Next week, they travel to Rochester for a couple more indoor contests before finally getting outside on March 30 at home against Northwestern’s junior varsity. That will usher them right into the MCAC Southern Division portion of their schedule, which opens on March 31 at home against Riverland.
Lynn predicted the Southern Division will, as usual, be tough this season. But if the Lady Jays are able to keep all of their current intangibles strong, she believes it can be a strong season.
“For me, it’s all about the kids coming to play with a good attitude,” she said. “If they play 100 percent, focus and continue work as a team, everything else will take care of its self. It sounds like a cliché, but it’s always seemed to me like the teams that get along and enjoy playing with each other are the ones that are usually successful.”

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