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WHS softball team sets sights higher

The Worthington Trojans high school girls fast-pitch team is eyeing a state tournament berth this year after finishing high in the Section 2AAA tournament in 2021

Worthington Trojans assistant softball coach Brad Grimmius leads a defensive drill designed determine which base to throw to during the flow of game play.
Worthington Trojans assistant softball coach Brad Grimmius leads a defensive drill designed determine which base to throw to during the flow of game play.
Tim Middagh / The Globe

WORTHINGTON -- Preparations for the 2022 Worthington Trojans high school fast-pitch softball season are ramping up even before the first game. In practice sessions, the pitching machine is set on fast.

The Trojans were part of a fast company in 2021, and they intend to compete at a high level in 2022, too.

Worthington Trojans returning softball letter winners (front from left) Hannah McNab, Presley Sieve, Baily Ponto (back row) Abby Linder, Olivia Hayenga, Haley Grimmius, Lauren Nelson and Maddie Petersen.
Worthington Trojans returning softball letter winners are (front, from left) Hannah McNab, Presley Sieve, Bailey Ponto, (back row) Abby Linder, Olivia Hayenga, Haley Grimmius, Lauren Nelson and Maddie Petersen.
Tim Middagh / The Globe

Buoyed by their outstanding season of a year ago, when they posted an 18-6 record and went deep in the Section 2AAA tournament, the team wants more.

“That’s our goal, to get a little further, to keep pushing those Mankato schools,” said head coach Rosalie Hayenga-Hostikka, whose Trojans lost only to state-ranked powerhouses Mankato West and Mankato East in the section tourney.

“They want to keep improving like they did the last five years,” Hayenga-Hostikka said of her players. “Being able to do that last year gave us a ton of confidence coming into this year. I think in the past we might have had a mental block against some of them (section) teams. Now that we’ve been successful, we know we can play with anybody.”

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Besides last year’s accomplishments, what gives the Trojans’ such confidence this spring?

It starts where it often starts: in the pitcher’s circle. A dominating pitcher is a godsend in fast-pitch softball, and WHS returns just the ticket. She’s senior right-hander Haley Grimmius, who posted a 1.56 earned run average in her junior campaign along with 148 innings, 73 hits, 30 walks and 270 strikeouts. Grimmius, a candidate for Minnesota’s Miss Softball who will compete at Augustana University in Sioux Falls, S.D., next year, is also a powerful hitter, having batted .646 with six home runs in 2021.

“She’s our key. She’s one of the best pitchers in the state. And when your best player is your hardest worker, your job as a coach is very easy,” Hayenga-Hostikka said.

Other important players also return. Senior Olivia Hayenga is a fast, athletic shortstop who covers, in Hayenga-Hostikka’s words, “a ton of ground.” She’s nimble on the bases, anticipates well on defense, and is aggressive.

Third baseman Lauren Nelson, a junior, batted .390 as a sophomore and provides a good bat in the middle of the lineup. Outfielder Hannah McNab comes off a freshman year where she batted .406. Junior Presley Sieve, a junior outfielder, batted .359 last year and gives the Trojans more speed on the bases.

Worthington will miss all-state catcher Sophie Wietzema, who graduated after batting .484 with four home runs. It’s crucial that the Trojans find another catcher who can handle Grimmius’ exceptional speed and movement, and Hayenga-Hostikka believes she’s found it in sophomore Maddie Petersen.

“She’s put a lot of time in over the winter. Not everybody can handle catching someone like Haley. So far, she’s done well in scrimmages. She’s unafraid,” said the coach.

With their core of proven hitters, the Trojans should be able to score a few runs this spring. Hayenga-Hostikka believes if the team can only score two or three runs a game, their chances of victory should be good. They intend to manufacture their share of insurance runs by taking the extra base whenever possible.

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The defense is sound up the middle led by Hayenga at shortstop and McNab in center-field.

Worthington is scheduled to open its regular season Thursday, beginning at 5:30 p.m., in New Ulm.

Doug Wolter joined the Worthington Globe in December of 1983 as a sports reporter. He later became sports editor, and then news editor and managing editor. In 2006 he moved to Mankato with his wife, Sandy, and served as an editor at the Mankato Free Press. In 2013 he and Sandy returned to Worthington to take up the job of sports editor at The Globe, and they have been in Worthington since.

Doug can be reached at dwolter@dglobe.com.
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