Fast pitch preview: Rams look to build on record season

Anoka-Ramsey Community College fast pitch softball looks to build off a record-setting 2011 with even loftier goals this spring.

Sophomore Alex Conley will be staple in the Rams line-up this spring at the plate and on the pitching rubber.
Sophomore Alex Conley will be staple in the Rams line-up this spring at the plate and on the pitching rubber.

The Golden Rams won a program-record 28 games last season and came within one game of nationals, losing to southern division champion Ridgewater Community College. Anoka-Ramsey finished second at the combined Minnesota College Athletic Conference (MCAC) and NJCAA Division III Region XIII tournament, which takes the top four teams from each division, southern and northern, for the tournament.

Ridgewater represented the MCAC at nationals and is ranked No. 6 in the national poll as it return both stand-out pitchers Andrea Krause and Shannon Heitz.

Anoka-Ramsey improved greatly over its 2010 performance in which it won four times all season in the program’s first year back after missing 17 seasons.

Last year the team finished with 16-8 record in the southern division of the MCAC, playing on a new field at the Cambridge campus. The team graduated Andi Schoephoerster, who was named an NJCAA All-American as well as Randee Hanson and Krystal Plouff, who were named NFCA All-Americans.

Schoephoerster and Hanson were also named MCAC All-State.

This is coach Dave Alto’s third season at Anoka-Ramsey and he comes in with a 32-65 career record. He coached at Buffalo and Spring Lake Park over the last 20 seasons.

Anoka-Ramsey returns versatile sophomore Alex Conley, an Anoka graduate.

She hit .364 and scored 40 runs last spring and is the only returner from last season. She played every position last spring except catcher and first base.

That will change this season as she’s developed several new pitches including two change-ups, a drop ball and rise ball.

“[Alto’s] pushed me to be a main pitcher,” Conley, the Golden Rams’ fourth pitcher last season, said. “It’s difficult because the key is to always be consistent, but I look forward to that role.”

New faces taking the field for the Golden Rams this spring including Hibbing Community College transfer pitcher Khloe Greniger, a pitcher from Rockford along with freshman catcher/infielder Caitlin Sipe from Rockford, infielders Becca Haas from Princeton and Rachel Rivera from Ogilvie and outfielder/infielder Ellie Heid, a Totino-Grace graduate.

Slow start
Anoka-Ramsey is off to a slow 2-11 start following a 14-4 loss to Minnesota West Community and Technical College March 21.

The annual spring trip to Arizona didn’t net many wins, but experience and playing time proved invaluable.

“It was a lot like last year,” Conley said. “We didn’t do well in the beginning but it turned out to be a great head start for us because other teams in our league didn’t get a chance to get down there.”

Conley and Greniger split the majority of the innings this spring as the Golden Rams traveled to the Tuscon, Ariz., area for its spring trip.

Conley surrendered 38 earned runs in 31.1 innings with three strikeouts and 26 walks, while Greniger gave up 39 earned runs and 80 hits over 31.2 innings with eight strikeouts and 13 walks. Both have 1-5 records.

Conley said this spring’s team focuses more on generating runs with its short game instead of power hitting.

“We’re better at the short game with bunting and speed,” she said. “Last year’s players were already at their greatest potential. This year we have more young players who have a lot of potential too.”

Katie Massoglla leads the Rams bats with a .481 batting average (13-27) with two doubles in 10 games. Conley is hitting .356 with two doubles, one triple, have driven in six runs and scored a team-high 10 runs in 13 games. Sipe leads the team in RBI with 12 and doubles (three) and is hitting .324 in 12 games.

The Golden Rams open the home schedule at its one-year old field at the Cambridge campus against St. Cloud at 3 p.m. April 3.

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