21 June 2012

Softball: A homecoming and a dream season

Team and Offensive MVP Ashley Betzold (photo by Jim Lindquist)  
The 2012 season couldn't have gone a whole lot better for first-year coach Paul Harrington and his resurgent Tigers.

Coming off two so-so seasons, Farmington finished 17-6, won a share of the Missota Conference championship, went unbeaten to win the Section 1AAA title and earned its second-ever trip to the state tournament.

"It was truly an amazing year," FHS grad Harrington said. "For me it was coming back to my alma mater and coaching a group of girls I knew nothing about. We started practice on March 12 and less than three months later we were playing on the biggest stage in Minnesota at the state tournament.

"These girls worked hard from the beginning to the end. They put in extra time after practice, on Saturdays and at home. That along with a couple of great assistant coaches in Mal Betzold and Trevor Monroe were huge ingredients in our success."

Harrington awarded 13 varsity letters to members of his state tourney team, including seniors Taylor Haakana, Brooke Searles, Erin Wurst and Allie Rice; juniors Ashley Betzold, Rachel Brietich and Toni Hunsinger; sophomores Jordyn Keprios and Mckenzie Nelson; freshmen Molly Berdan, Amber Boyle and Taylor Yousse and eighth-grader Hailey Monroe.

 Allie Rice: Offensive MVP, All-Missota Conference (photo by Jim Lindquist)
Betzold, Rice, Searles and Hunsinger each made the all-Missota Conference team while Haakana and Doyle received all-league honorable mention. Betzold, Rice, Hunsinger, Wurst and Doyle were all-section selections. Wurst and Rice also garnered Academic All-State honors.

Harrington and his staff also handed out several team awards. Betzold, who won all 17 games as a pitcher, was both team and defensive Most Valuable Player. Rice won Offensive MVP honors and Berdan was tabbed as the Most Improved Player. Rice and Yousse were co-winners of the Coaches Award.

Harrington rattled off a long list of on-field highlights from the season just completed but said perhaps the best things about the dream year were the relationships he cultivated with his players.

Toni Hunsinger-All-Missota Conference (photo by Jim Lindquist)
"It was just great getting to know and work with such a great bunch of kids," he said.

The Tiger coach said he couldn't emphasize enough the contributions of the four departing seniors, calling them "great kids and big contributors" but added that he likes his team's look both for next season and the future.

"We have a good group coming back next season," he said, "and we gained a lot of experience this year. Now that the kids have tasted being on the big stage, hopefully they will be motivated to go back. That will be our No. 1 goal next year."

To do that the former Tiger said his players need to avail themselves of several off-season opportunities, including summer and and fall ball, a winter Dome League, local college clinics as well as off-season improvement in the areas of agility, strength and conditioning.

"Those options are there for the kids to initiate and pursue," Harrington said. "Hopefully they will step up and take advantage of them...No position will be guaranteed next year. Those that work hard in the off-season will certainly increase their chances."

Brooke Searles-All-Missota (photo by Jim Lindquist)

Taylor Haakana-All-Missota HM (photo by Jim Lindquist)