Spring Lake Park
Coach: Lori Lightbody
Outlook:The Panthers compiled a 12-6 record last season, reaching the second round of the Section 5AAA tournament before losing to Totino-Grace 10-0.
Spring Lake Park returns several key players including sophomore Alyssa Jones, who drove in a team-high 12 runs with a .345 bating average and hit two of the team’s four triples, senior Emma Humphrey, who went 14-52 at the plate with five extra base hits including three doubles.
The Panthers graduated Nikki Norgaard and Kaitlyn Luedtke, who had 23 and 22 hits, respectively, which led the team.
Freshman standout pitcher Alex Reynolds started 15 of 17 games, earning a 3.14 ERA with 49 strike outs and only five walks. Classmate Kati Thunborg pitched 3.1 innings over three games and gave up eight earned runs on nine hits and one walk.
Coach: Patty Grant
Outlook: Andover won just five games last season and returns several players from that team this spring. The Huskies opened the Section 7AAA tournament with an 11-6 win over Chisago Lakes before Forest Lake ended the Huskies season with an 11-1 loss.
Andover returns two key pitchers in senior Maddie Bitner and sophomore Brianna Davis along with junior catcher Paige Dale. Corner infielders Meagan Brodeur (senior, first base) and Kaylin Beatty (senior, third base) return with junior center fielder Bec Burlingame and sophomore outfielder Sarah Gady.
“The girls have been working hard in the off season and are ready to move forward in the conference and section play,” Grant said.
Coach: Toni Jesinoski
Outlook:Anoka put together a nice run to the Section 7AAA tournament finals before falling to Forest Lake in 5-1 in 10 innings. Anoka finished with a 13-12 overall record and return nine players that made an impact on the team and saw regular playing time.
Jesinoski said the key for this spring is to make the big defensive play when needed.
She made some position changes for the spring season which will ultimately allow players to move around the field comfortably. “I believe we will embrace our flexibility and be able to have a solid line up no matter who is placed on the field,” she said. “I have many players able to move in different positions. I have a group of talented athletes that will need to embrace their role and do what is best for the team.”
On offense she expects to see more aggressive base running due to the level of experience in the dugout.
The Tornadoes return junior pitcher Hailee Gifford along with Amy Niedenfuer and Jordin Novak.
Jesinoski feels the race for the conference and section titles is really up in the air. “The conference could be anyone’s to step up and take,” she said.
Coach: Jami Holoien
Outlook: The Cardinals return several capable contributors, including junior pitchers Allie Hable and Kate Fredrickson, lead-off hitter senior Michelle Harris and junior catcher Katie Boden. Captains for the season include seniors Stephanie Besst and Harris and junior Fredrickson.
Holoien starts her sixth season leading the Cardinals and 11th season coaching, while assistant coach Jeana Hearshman will celebrate her 25th season in the dugout.
Coon Rapids lost a 12-inning heart-breaker to Mounds View in the section semifinals last season. With the list of returners, the Cardinals should be in contention to return or exceed last season’s 15-7 overall record and 10-6 finish in the Northwest Suburban Conference.
Holoien said the key for her team will be to take care of the little things on defense and execute on offense to drive in runners. She said the parity in the conference will make for some great softball with powers like Elk River, Park Center, Centennial and Maple Grove.
Coach: Bill Giddens (first-year head coach varsity)
Outlook: New head coach Bill Giddens brings in a wealth of coaching experience at the summer-league levels at St. Francis, Forest Lake and Soderville programs. The Panthers posted an 8-7 record last season and won their section opener. This year PACT returns captains senior Amanda Weber, junior Ashley Mathews and Abigail Rickenbach.
Rickenbach, a sophomore and the main starting pitcher, has developed a change-up to complement her fastball. The Panthers will have a young battery with freshman catcher Madeline Jacob calling the shots. Giddens said Jacob has the ability to excel anywhere on the diamond and will also be looked on to swing the bat.
“Our team is young but eager to learn and improve,” Giddens said. “If we play solid defense I believe we can be near the top of [the MCAA] conference.”
Coaches: Carolyn Thompson/Al Schlomann
Outlook: St. Francis returns a veteran group, including its top three hitters – seniors Mirana Husnick (28 hits in 66 at-bats), Kelsey Gale (25-62) and Deb Evans (22-64).
Evans hit the Saints only two home runs of the season and drove in 13 runs. Gale led the team with three triples, 11 stolen bases and drew 15 walks.
Evans was also the ace of the pitching staff with an 11-5 record, starting 18 of 19 games she pitched in with 121 strike outs, 91 hits, 31 walks and 33 earned runs.
Legacy Christian Academy did not reply for this preview.
Compiled by Jason Olson