Wilkins leads way in Cardinals’ batting attack

Sports Reporter
Sam is the sports reporter for ABC Newspapers, covering high school, junior college and community sports in the area. He joined the staff in October 2016.
McKenzie Wilkins has broken the Coon Rapids school record for career home runs with three already this season. (Photo by Sam Herder)
McKenzie Wilkins has broken the Coon Rapids school record for career home runs with three already this season. (Photo by Sam Herder)

The batting has been there all season for the Coon Rapids softball team. Now the Cardinals are hoping to add some wins as the backstretch of the regular season hits.

Coon Rapids was 5-8 heading into this week and are on pace to break several school records at the plate. The team has already broken its record for home runs in a season with seven and has five hitters batting .333 or higher.

“We’ve been putting together quality at-bats and I think we have depth 1-9 and girls that can come off the bench and have a good at-bat,” head coach Zach Nienaber said. “This is my fourth year coaching and the girls are learning what we want and what we expect. It’s a product of our youth programs. We’ve worked with our youth program and they’re teaching the same things we are. Those girls are coming up now and it’s showing.”

McKenzie Wilkins has had a big hand in Coon Rapids’ success at the plate. The senior outfielder is batting .419 with three home runs, which moved her to No. 1 in the school’s career home runs list. Wilkins has also been selected to play in the Minnesota Fastpitch Coaches’ Association All-Star Game.

“She’s one of the strongest girls I’ve ever seen,” Nienaber said. “In the weight room she impressed last year and was squatting 225 three times. She’s the most athletic girl I’ve ever been around. And her approach at the plate has been a lot better. If she gets fooled and takes it for a strike, she hits the next one.”

Sophomore Abby Grahm, batting .362, and freshman Meg Scheck, batting .293, have both added two home runs for the Cardinals. Kennedy Kehr is hitting .413, Sam Lom is batting .372 and Kamryn Schmalzer is at .333.

“Part of that is our old varsity field is a lot bigger,” Nienaber said on the home runs. “But we’re hitting a ton of them on the road too. This is the size park that most fields are. The numbers from before are held down a bit, but we have girls that are hitting all over the place. But runs and at-bats too we’re doing really solid.”

The Cardinals are shooting to earn a home playoff game in the first round of the Section 7AAAA tournament. More wins will need to come, but the team has shown it typically plays its best ball in the final weeks of the season.

“I think we’re going to win more games coming up,” Nienaber said. “We’re never too worried about results early in the year. It’s about building toward later in the year. We’ve upset someone every year for the last three years. Part of that is because we’re not super worried at the start of the year. Part of that is we take an approach to build for later in the year. I think we’re going to win some more games and be a tough out in the playoffs.”

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