Don’t tell Spring Lake Park that youth automatically means fewer wins and less runs.
The Panthers began the softball season with a very mature 6-2 win over Rogers at Panthers Field April 3.
Spring Lake Park junior center fielder Lexi Luedtke got it done with big at-bats going two-for-two with two RBIs and scored two runs.
Rogers scored first in the top half of the second inning on a line drive to right field.
The Panthers responded in a big way as Luedtke highlighted the second inning with a two-out, two-run triple to put the home team in the lead for good. Luedtke scored on a passed ball to make it 3-1.
“That was great for her to step up and get us going,” Panthers coach Lori Lightbody said.
She executed a drag bunt in the fifth inning to set the table for senior captain Emma Humphrey, who knocked in Luedtke on an RBI double to make the score 4-1.
Then Tammy Hoemberg came to the plate with runners on the corners with one out.
She made it 5-2 on a sacrifice fly to center field, scoring pinch runner Nicole Griffin.
Spring Lake Park freshman pitcher Alex Reynolds began where she left off at the end of last season with a strong performance. She pitched in every game last spring.
Tuesday afternoon she scattered seven hits with two strikeouts and zero walks, and gave up two earned runs over seven innings to start the year 1-0.
Lightbody said she wondered if Reynolds pitched enough in practice before the season, but she looked ready to go.
“We’re expecting good things from her and she has one year under her belt already,” Lightbody said. “She isn’t a kid who gets rattled easily. That’s what she does.”
Stepping into the spotlight last season one year after standout Sarah DuPaul earned several accolades, Reynolds appears ready to take her chances in the middle of the diamond.
“Knowing she had big shoes to fill she came out and said, ‘I want that job. I want to be that person,” Lightbody said.
This year began relatively smoothly for Reynolds, who has more classmates surrounding her this season. “I’m a lot more comfortable because I know them more,” Reynolds said.
She didn’t add a new pitch but refined her accuracy and added three miles per hour to her fastball during off-season training with her uncle Tony Chester.
Spring Lake Park looked to be near mid-season form in the field and at the plate thanks in part to the extensive practice outdoors instead of taking practice indoors.
Rogers led off an inning with a double three times, but the Panthers settled into a grove as the inning moved along.
The Panthers turned two double plays to get out of danger with the first coming in the top of the second as freshman shortstop Kati Thunborg cleanly scooped up a ground ball, stepped on second base and fired over to senior first baseman Hoemberg to end the inning.
The Panthers defense came up big once again in the fourth inning. Third baseman Torie Peterson cleanly fielded a ground ball with runners at the corners, made the throw to Hoemberg, who stepped on first base, then alertly fired the ball to sophomore catcher Alyssa Jones, who tagged out the Rogers base runner at the plate to end the inning in dramatic fashion.
Lightbody said it was something the team had practiced and “it was good that we got to utilize it in the first game.”