Timely runs key to winning for Saints

Can a softball team that is averaging almost six runs a game have a problem with offense?

Taylor Snelling steals second as the throw to Anoka’s Amy Niedenfuer comes in late during the May 11 game that pit St. Francis against Anoka. The Saints won that game 4-2. Followed by a 9-1 loss to Hill-Murray and a 6-5 win over Lakeville North on May 12, the Saints were at 11-5 for the season. Photo by Bill Jones

Taylor Snelling steals second as the throw to Anoka’s Amy Niedenfuer comes in late during the May 11 game that pit St. Francis against Anoka. The Saints won that game 4-2. Followed by a 9-1 loss to Hill-Murray and a 6-5 win over Lakeville North on May 12, the Saints were at 11-5 for the season. Photo by Bill Jones

It can, if it has trouble scoring runs at key moments. And that’s something St. Francis is trying to fix as the regular season winds down.

“In some of our tougher games, we haven’t always been able to score when we’ve had runners on base,” co-head coach Carolyn Thompson said. “We should be able to do that. The top of our lineup is solid, and we have good hitters in the middle and bottom of the order.”

Although the Saints have 96 runs in their first 17 games (they were 12-5 in that span), many of those were scored against two of the North Suburban Conference’s weaker teams, Columbia Heights (22-4) and St. Louis Park (21-0), on back-to-back days in April.

Runs were tougher to come by in clutch situations against Irondale and Spring Lake Park, the top two teams in the league. St. Francis lost to Irondale 6-3 and Spring Lake Park 7-6.

The Saints were 8-2 in their first 10 conference games, one-half game behind Irondale (8-1). To have a chance at the conference title, they needed to keep winning and get some assistance from Irondale’s opponents.

“It’s still a goal,” said Thompson, who shares head coaching duties with Al Schlomann. “We’ll need to win out.”

St. Francis defeated Benilde-St. Margaret’s 4-3 in a key North Suburban game Monday. On Saturday, the Saints defeated South Suburban Conference co-champion Lakeville North 6-5 in a non-conference game.

A core group of six seniors has kept St. Francis in the conference race. Infielder Kelsey Gale has been one of the top leadoff hitters in the conference, Thompson said. “If she gets on base, she’ll score,” the coach said.

Taryn Luby, the Saints’ catcher, is batting close to .500. Several others are in the .300s, including pitcher Deb Evans.

Seniors anchor the St. Francis infield. Sam Salo plays first base, Gale is at second, Miranda Husnick plays shortstop and Brie Blowers is the third baseman.

The Saints have used three pitchers – Evans and sophomores Caitlin Luby and Taylor Snelling. Thompson said all three have been used in the same game and the coaches wouldn’t hesitate to do it again.

While switching back and forth between the three pitchers might help keep hitters off-balance, Thompson said pitching changes have been made primarily to protect arms or substitute for someone who is struggling.

If the Saints can’t win the North Suburban in one of their final shots at that title, they won’t have any time to sulk about it. The Section 7AAA playoffs begin May 22.

Mike Shaughnessy is at mike.shaughnessy@ecm-inc.com


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