Bengal softball swinging away

by Andy Rogers
Sun ThisWeek Newspapers

It may be early, the Blaine softball team is off to a promising start.

Bengal pitching ace Jessica Eppenberger hurls a fast one from the mound. File photo

Bengal pitching ace Jessica Eppenberger hurls a fast one from the mound. File photo

Hoping to improve over last season’s 7-15 mark, the girls opened the season with two straight victories thanks to a lively bat.

The Bengals thumped Princeton 21-1 in the season opener and edged Osseo 10-9 April 11.

“Princeton had a couple  of kids missing for Easter break, but we still have 14 hits that game,” head coach Tom Wherry said. “That was a good way to start. Against Osseo, we had 12 hits, too. We hit pretty good that night.”

The girls learned a few early-season lessons against Osseo. After taking a 7-0 lead, Osseo stormed back to go ahead 9-7.

“The girls didn’t get down on themselves,” Wherry said.

Blaine chipped its way back in the game with one run in the bottom of the fifth, sixth and seventh to win.

The Bengals took a step back with a loss to Andover 7-0 April 12.

“We didn’t hit the ball well at all,” Wherry said. “That’s all you need to know there. I think we had three hits. They didn’t have that many either, but we had some key errors that really hurt us.”

With four seniors who have started on varsity since ninth or 10th grade several Bengals are hoping to go out with a bang.

The pitching staff has two returning aces Lauren Anderson and Jessica Eppenberger on the mound, but Wherry saw room for improvement after a few innings.

“It needs to get a little better,” Wherry said. “They’re doing all right. I think they can do better and I’m sure they feel the same way.”

Wherry said returning catcher Abbey Nelson has really helped solidify the lineup and give the pitchers confidence.

Hannah Zurn, who went out last season with a serious injury, is back making eye-catching grabs in center field, but she still runs with a bit of a limp.

The returning star players, shortstop Abby Veloske and third basemen Kelsey Repik, have picked right up where they left off.

The Bengals got some reinforcements to the outfield straight out of the hockey arena. The Swanstrom twins, Katie and Samantha, have added athleticism to the lineup after a winter of hard hits on the hockey team.

The schedule tightens up for the Bengals with three straight games, including a makeup game against Maple Grove on Tuesday night, a nonconference game against Edina on Wednesday and a trip to Coon Rapids Thursday.

Andy Rogers is sports editor at Sun ThisWeek Newspapers.
Rogers can be reached at andy.rogers@ecm-inc.com 

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