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Luverne softball team is looking dangerous

The Luverne High School fast-pitch softball team has beaten area powerhouse Pipestone Area twice and hopes to create waves late in the season.

Luverne Cardinals

The Luverne girls softball team is unbeaten so far this spring, which is impressive enough.

When the Cardinals swept a doubleheader recently from perennial power Pipestone Area it was especially noteworthy across the southwest Minnesota softball landscape.

That’s because Luverne had not beaten the Arrows in 20 years.

Softball

“It was special,” said Luverne head coach Brooks Maurer of his squad’s 6-3 and 12-7 victories over the Arrows on April 19. “I’m not sure some of the girls on our team understand the magnitude of that.”

Luverne has never earned a trip to the state tournament in softball. The closest the Cards came was a loss to — you guessed it — Pipestone in the section final three years ago. This year’s Cardinal team is 6-0 and clearly one of the best in school history.

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“It’s a really hard-working group,” said Maurer, a sixth-year coach who is also manager of the Luverne Redbirds amateur baseball team. “They’re always asking questions about how to get better with their swings and defensively. That hard work has been paying off so far.”

Billi Connell and Reghan Bork are senior leaders. Connell is an all-state third baseman-shortstop who has signed with the Minnesota Gophers and is regarded as one of the top players in the area.

“Billie’s our leadoff hitter,” Maurer said. “She’s pretty dang good.”

Connell is hitting .409 with three homers, three doubles, a triple and nine RBIs.

Bork is batting .320 with seven RBIs. Freshman Payton Behr is also an excellent player. She’s hitting .450 with five RBIs and a team-leading nine hits.

Other solid sticks for the Cardinals include sophomore Belle Smidt (.421, 5 RBIs), junior Carly Olson (.333, 4 doubles, team-high 11 RBIs), sophomore Jacey Smith (.316) and freshman Ella Reisdorfer (.286).

“We’ve been hitting well up and down our lineup,” Maurer said.

Sophomore Gracie Nath is the Cardinals’ top pitcher. She’s 6–0 with a 0.95 earned-run average, and in 29 innings pitched she’s struck out 33.

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Clearly there’s a lot of talent on the squad, which is not unusual because there are so many exceptional athletes at Luverne this year. The school’s track and field team is blessed with abundant speed, and there’s no lack of quickness on the softball team.

“If we’re not hitting really well, we can steal and we can bunt, too,” Maurer said. “We can do what we need to do to manufacture runs if we need to.”

Luverne’s hockey, girls basketball and gymnastics teams were also exceptional last winter, and several of the softball players contributed.

“It’s nice to see the girls having success in multiple sports,” Maurer said.

Winning, of course, breeds winning.

“Absolutely,” Maurer said.

Connell, Behr and Bork are among among the standout athletes who swing the softball bats as well as they do the hockey sticks.

“Obviously basketball and all the other sports are good for quickness and hand-eye coordination, but there’s definitely something to handling a hockey stick and swinging a bat. It just translates well,” Maurer said.

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So how far can this Luverne team go? St. James, Worthington, Jackson, Marshall, Fairmont and Edgerton-Southwest Christian are tough teams still to come on the Cardinals’ schedule.

“We hope to always be playing our best heading into playoffs and making the season as long as we possibly can,” he said.

The early-season successes, including the monumental twinbill sweep of a top rival, have produced lots of optimism.

“You don’t know if something is possible until it happens,” Maurer said. “Beating Pipestone kind of proved to us that we have the potential to be really good, and if we keep working hard and playing well that hopefully good things will happen.”

Maurer’s family includes his wife, Kat, who is a doctor in Luverne, and 2-year-old son Myles. Kat’s father is former Pipestone football standout Mark Dahl, who along with his brother Scott led the Arrows to the state championship football game some 40 years ago.

So Kat has known about the Pipestone-Luverne rivalry her entire life. Even if the current Cardinal players aren’t fully aware of the significance of the rare victories over the Arrows, others are.

“My wife and sister-in-law, who played here and love softball, they understand,” Maurer said. “It means a lot, because Pipestone is always such a great program.”

Scott Mansch, who in a crowded Viking tavern has been known to say “Go Pack Go” at times in complete disregard for his health, can be reached at smansch5rockets@gmail.com
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The Worthington Trojans boys basketball team played exceptional defense against Canistota, surrendering a mere 11 points in the first half.