Softball season preview

Andover

2012 finish: 8-12 overall, lost to Chisago Lakes 6-4 in the Section 7AAA opener.

Area softball teams have been limited to batting cages and gymnasiums for the most part this spring. Hopefully teams will be able to take to the dirt soon. File photo

Area softball teams have been limited to batting cages and gymnasiums for the most part this spring. Hopefully teams will be able to take to the dirt soon. File photo

Coach: Connie Huberty, first season at Andover and 25th season overall.

Returning players: Seniors Paige Dale (infielder) and Rebecca Burlingame (outfield); junior pitcher Brianna Davis.

Outlook: Huberty takes over the lead coaching role on the team after nine seasons as an assistant coach. She was head varsity coach at Irondale for 15 seasons and lower levels prior to that. She also leads the volleyball program. Eight of the 11 rostered players on varsity either started or played significant innings last spring. Huberty said the JV squad also has players that will compete for varsity playing time to keep the starting spots very competitive throughout the season.

Anoka

2012 finish: 7-9, seventh place NWSC; 11-11 overall, lost to Duluth East 2-1 in the second round of Section 7AAA.

Coach: Toni Jesinoski.

Returning players:

Outlook: No information was provided.

Blaine

2012 finish: 6-9, eighth place NWSC; 8-12 overall, lost in the Section 7AAA opener.

Coach: Don Bross, first year with Blaine.

Returning players:

Outlook: No information was provided.

Coon Rapids

2012 finish: 9-7, fourth place NWSC; 10-7 overall and lost in the Section 5AAA second round.

Coach: Jami Holoien.

Returning players: Senior pitchers Allie Hable and Kate Fredrickson; senior catcher Katie Boden; junior infielders Shayla Huffman and Rosei Grainger.

Outlook: Both Cardinals senior pitchers come with a lot of experience as Hable started throwing as a seventh grader and Fredrickson an eighth grader. Combine with a senior catcher in Katie Boden and two junior infielders, Coon Rapids returns veterans some key positions in the field. “We will need to take care of the little things defensively and take advantage of scoring runners in scoring position,” Holoien said.

Legacy Christian

2012 finish: 4-4, sixth place MCAA; 13-11 overall and reached the Section 4A final four.

Taking swings outside on the diamond have been something of a rarity so far in 2013, especially for Legacy Christian Academy. File photo

Taking swings outside on the diamond have been something of a rarity so far in 2013, especially for Legacy Christian Academy. File photo

Coach: Matt McLachlan second season, over 20 years coaching.

Returning players: Senior catcher and captain Katie McLaughlin had a .545 batting average and .627 on-base percentage. Sophomore sister Marie McLaughlin returns as the Lions top pitcher and batter with a 3.88 earned run average on the mound and a .588 batting average and .667 on-base percentage.

Outlook: After reaching the section semifinals for the first time in program history and winning three more games last spring, Legacy looks to build on that success with the McLaughlin sisters along with two transfer students. Those transfers will help fill needs across the line up and in the field. “They both have all-around games and fill holes we had last year,” said Lions assistant coach Jesse Martens. “Our bats will be better this year and our sophomore pitcher Marie is only going to get better.”

Expect the Lions to compete with New Life Academy for the top spot in the MCAA Conference and section title.

Spring Lake Park

2012 finish: 8-2 NSC, 12-7 overall and lost in the second round of sections.

Spring Lake Park hopes to improve its fortunes this spring after finishing runner-up in the North Suburban Conference by one game in 2012. The Panthers return seven players who started multiple games last season. File photo

Spring Lake Park hopes to improve its fortunes this spring after finishing runner-up in the North Suburban Conference by one game in 2012. The Panthers return seven players who started multiple games last season. File photo

Coach: Lori Lightbody, 11th season.

Returning players: Captains are seniors Lexi Luedtke (center fielder); Aimee Thunborg (first base/DP) and Alyssa Jones (catcher). They are also three-year starters for the Panthers. Sophomore pitcher Alex Reynolds, sophomore shortstop Maddy Walraff and freshman second baseman Maddy Iskierka return.

Outlook: Lightbody can see a top-half finish in the conference this season after finishing second by one game last spring. One big reason for the expectation comes from returning seven players, who started multiple games in 2011 and five others who had some varsity action.

St. Francis

2012 finish: 8-2, second place in North Suburban Conference; 16-7 overall, lost to Duluth Denfield in the Section 7AAAA final four.

Coach: Jen Close, first year after nine seasons as assistant coach.

St. Francis head coach Jen Close steps into the lead role this spring after serving as assistant coach for the previous nine seasons. Look for three fielders to attempt to pick up the slack at the plate left by now-graduated Kelsey Gale. Close pointed to Angie Roberts, Caitlyn Luby and Abby Marron to provide that offensive spark. File photo

St. Francis head coach Jen Close steps into the lead role this spring after serving as assistant coach for the previous nine seasons. Look for three fielders to attempt to pick up the slack at the plate left by now-graduated Kelsey Gale. Close pointed to Angie Roberts, Caitlyn Luby and Abby Marron to provide that offensive spark. File photo

Returning players: The Saints return three players that saw regular time with varsity including returning starting center fielder Angie Roberts; pitcher and starting first baseman Caitlyn Luby and shortstop Abby Marron.

Roberts started last spring in center field and has the speed to cover a lot of ground in addition to running the bases.

Luby will be the primary pitcher this spring and has a incredible rise-ball. “She has a wonderful ability to control any game from the mound, if her location is on,” Close said.

Marron is only a sophomore and started for the JV squad last spring before being called up for sections. “She’s a quick, explosive athlete and covers the infield well. She’s a solid contact hitter and will be looked at to fill a lot of leadership,” Close said.

Outlook: The loss of standout batter Kelsey Gale (.619 batting average, 18 runs, 17 RBI, 15 stolen bases and the lone home run) will be a big void to fill as the Saints graduated four of the top five batters from last season. Hamlin, Roberts, Snelling and Douville return with at least 21 at-bats last spring.

Newcomers: Pitcher/second baseman Aimee Cotrrell; first baseman Ann Lokke; catcher Jenny Kost and third baseman/outfielder Amanda Marron.

Outlook: Despite the lack of veteran experience, Close believes this group will compete in the North Suburban Conference. “They’re going to adjust to varsity very well as most of them played for me at JV and did very well,” Close said. “If we can get our pitching to work through some growing pains early in the year and really get our defense to be as a solid as possible for games, I think our girls will compete for a top conference spot.”

Jason Olson is at jason.olson@ecm-inc.com

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