10 June 2014

Softball: Another successful season

All-state centerfielder Carly Esselman (photo by J. Lindquist)
Farmington didn't win its third straight section championship but it did manage to put together another solid season under third-year coach Paul Harrington.

The Tigers finished 16-9 overall (9-5 in the Missota Conference) and went 4-2 in the section tourney, losing twice to eventual Class AA champion Lakeville South.

"We had another very late, cold spring," Harrington said, "but the kids on all four of our teams were great facing the disappointment of so much practicing in the gym.

"It took us awhile to get our rhythm but when we hit the last week of the regular season we felt we were ready for another great playoff run which we had."

Twelve players were awarded varsity letters at the team's post-season banquet held Monday night: seniors Jordyn Keprios and McKenzie Nelson; juniors Molly Berdan, Amber Doyle, Ashley Ibinger and Taylor Yousse; sophomores Carly Esselman, Nicole Pierick and Meghan Silber and freshmen Emily Berdan, Caitie Dully and Maddie Muelken.

Esselman who led the team in hitting with a .420 average, was nemed the St. Paul Pioneer Press all-state team, the Minnesota Coaches Association second all-state team,  and also earned all-Missota Conference and all-section honors.

Ibinger (.388), Muelken (12-7 pitching record) and Yousse were all-section selections while Ibinger, Muelken, and Doyle (4 home runs and 24 RBI) joined Esselman on the all-Missota squad.

Other awards announced Monday night at the awards banquet included team and offensive MVP: Esselman; Defensive MVP: Muelken; Most Improved Player: Ibinger and Dully and Tiger Award: Molly Berdan.
Maddie Muelken won 12 games as a freshman (photo by Jim Lindquist)
Harrington said the list of accomplishments of the 2014 edition of Tiger softball was a long one, topped by reaching the section finals for the third straight season; huge back-to-back wins over Hastings and Rochester Mayo to reach the section title game and providing a defense that averaged less than an error a game throughout the season.

"This was also one of the most enthusiastic teams I have ever coached," Harrington said. "Our dugout was especially loud."

Ashley Ibinger hit .388
Harrington was reluctant to point out disappointments encountered along the 2014 trail but offered that two things top the to-do list for next season 1) being more consistent making contact with the ball (too many strikeouts) and 2) executing the bunt.

"It's also important to note we added a fourth team to our program this year," Harrington said, "and it turned out to be very successful."

While this season brought much success only Keprios and Nelson will be lost to graduation and with a veteran squad returning, Harrington looks for an even more prosperous 2015.

Amber Doyle (4 HR, 24 RBI) (photo by J. Lindquist)
"We were fairly young this year, especially at pitcher and catcher," he said, "but Maddie (Muelken) and Meghan (Silber) did a great job with Maddie taking charge at the end of the season. Much of their success success came from Emily (catcher Berdan) who caught the majority of innings.

"We will miss our two seniors who played solidly all season but we feel that the experience the others gained this year will be very beneficial and lead to more success next season."

Better win-loss numbers will likely not come easy, however, as Farmington makes the leap into the uber-strong South Suburban Conference in the fall.

"The South Suburban is by far the most competitive softball conference in the state," Harrington said. "We will obviously have a much tougher regular season schedule in the years to come. Our players and coaches will need to step it up and be full prepared.

"But we feel the rigorous regular season schedule will have us much better prepared for the section playoffs.and another run at the state tournament."