22 June 2011

Softball: A step forward

Ashley Betzold
.373 average, 2.99 ERA
(photo by Jim Lindquist)

The young and mostly inexperienced Tigers took a step forward in 2011, finishing 11-12 overall and in a fourth place tie in the final Missota Conference standings with a 7-7 record. Coach Rob Laden's squad also advanced to the Section 1AAA final four where it lost to state champion Hastings and Rochester Mayo.
Laden said that all things considered, his team put together a successful 2011 campaign.
"Our conference got tougher this year with the addition of Chaska and Chanhassen," Laden said. "We also played a tougher non-conference schedule. When you combine that with being a young team, it made for a tough road.
"The weather didn't help either. We played half of our season (12 games) in 12 days and we only had six outdoor practices all season."
Laden said that ironically one of the season's biggest highlights came in a game his team lost.
"In the section semifinals Hastings beat us 5-0," he said. "They went on to win the state championship. They beat a lot of teams by a lot more than they beat us....Although we had a slow start, we played better as the season progressed."
If there were disappointment in the 2011 season, Laden said it came in the lack of summer play by his team's players.
"We need more of our players to play summer ball and train to become better," he said. "There is only so much we can do in three weeks in the gym."
Thirteen Tigers received varsity letters this spring, only three of them seniors--Alyssa Hagen, Dani Muelken and Paige Lindrud.
Other letterwinners included juniors Allie Rice, Erin Wurst, Taylor Hakaana and Mackenzie Beers; sophomores Ashley Betzold, Toni Hunsinger, Aleah Williamson and Erin Wurst; freshman Alyssa Kalmes and eighth-grader Taylor Yousse.
Betzold hit a team-leading .373 and pitched in every game, compiling an earned run average of 2.99. She and battery mate Muelken (.284 batting average) earned spots on the all-Missota Conference team. Yousse (.283) and Williamson (.272) each received honorable mention.
Laden said that with the large number of veterans returning next spring, 2012 should bring more improvement but he cautioned that it won't come automatically.
"We just can't show up a year older," he said. "We have to put the time into training to reach higher goals as a team."
To that end, the second year coach is stressing off-season work for this players, including playing summer ball; participating in fall leagues and dome ball; attending open gym sessions and taking part in weight training programs.