The Minnewaska Area softball team is now hoping to open up the 2023 season Thursday, April 20 at home against Morris Area-CA.  The Lakers’ first three scheduled openers were postponed due to weather.

The Lakers had been set to play a doubleheader at Melrose, April 6 (postponed to May 2), April 11 at home against ACGC (postponed) or April 13 at home vs. YME (postponed), but all three of those dates were removed from the schedule due to poor weather this spring.

Coaching the Lakers this season will be Jason Weber, who will be assisted by Jacalyn Skoglund, Abby VerSteeg, Dave Moe and Chip Rankin.

Varsity softball roster

This year’s varsity softball roster includes seniors Leslie Murken (ss, 3b, of, p) and Kylee Klassen (of); juniors Jenna Drewes (of), Grace Larson (c, 3b, 1b, of), Ally Mogard (2b), Melanie Lara (of), Emara Sanow (of) and Trelana Johnson (of); sophomores Morgan Meyer (of, c), Lauren Stryhn (1b), Metaya Mix (p, 1b) and Annahbelle Ernst (of); and ninth-graders Mesa Kittelson (2b, of), Ella Roering (ss, 3b, 2b), Ava Staples (c, p, of, 1b) and Emma Poegel (c, 3b, of).

Members of the JV team for 2023 are juniors Xi Li, Melanie Lara, Emara Sanow, Trelana Johnson and Chloe Lannes; sophomores Morgan Meyer, Lauren Stryhn, Annabelle Ernst and Brooklyn Armstrong; and ninth-graders Stacey Kangas, Mahry Wiegman, Carly Jergenson, Mesa Kittelson, Paige Lannes, Ella Roering, Kendyll Jenson and Ava Staples.

“Our expectations are to be better than last season,” coach Weber said.  “We improved on both sides of the diamond last year and combined with an entire summer season of more improvement, we are hoping for big things this year.  We placed second in the NLS Tourney; the first time playing a summer tourney schedule.”

Grace Larson returns as the starting catcher and she batted .214 last year.  Leslie Murken returns as the starting shortstop.  She batted .395 last year.  Jenna Drewes was an honorable mention selection last year.  She returns as the starter in the outfield after batting .538 last year.  And, Ally Mogard returns as the starter at second base.  She batted .231 last year after returning from an injury.

Among the newcomers expected to contribute immediately are Emma Poegel, Ava Staples, Metaya Mix and Ella Roering.

“We should be strong up the middle with returning starters at shortstop, second, catcher and centerfield, but we need to improve our pitching and defense.  Last year, we allowed too many free bases on walks and hit batters and we also didn’t play great defense all the time so we need a team effort to get better defensively.”

Last year, the Lakers finished the season with a 3-12 overall record, which included a 2-10 mark in the WCC.  Morris Area-CA won the league title with a perfect 12-0 record, followed by Sauk Centre (10-2), Melrose Area and West Central Area (both 7-5), and Benson, Minnewaska and Montevideo (all 2-10).

“We expect Morris Area, WCA and Melrose to be among the top teams in the WCC and Morris, Litchfield and Pipestone should be among the strongest teams in our section,” coach Weber said.  

A little about last year

The Lakers were seeded fifth in their half of Section 3AA last year and Minnewaska Area lost a close 14-13 game to fourth-seeded WCA in the playoff opener, 14-13.

During that game, the Lakers trailed early 3-0 before taking an 8-3 lead after 3 1/2 innings.  WCA tied it up with five runs in the bottom-half of the fourth and, after Minnewaska scored two in the fifth and three in the sixth to go up 13-8, the Knights tied it up again with another five-run inning in the sixth.

WCA got the gamewinner with two outs in the bottom-half of the seventh to move on in the tourney.  Olivia Richards led the Lakers during the final game of the season, going 3-for-5 with two doubles and five RBI, while Jenna Drewes went 2-for-3 with three runs scored, and Brooklyn Larson, Maddy Meulebroeck, Leslie Murken, Grace Larson and Leah Hagen also had hits and at least one RBI each for the Lakers.

Pipestone Area eventually won the Section 3AA title with a 15-0 rout of Luverne in the finals.  The Arrows went on to place sixth in the Class AA state tourney, losing to LeSueur-Henderson in the fifth-place games, 6-5.