Softball: New faces, but expectations remain highThe goals are the same, but many of the faces are different for this year’s Hastings High School softball team. The Raiders graduated 11 players from last year’s team, but the Raiders are hoping to earn their third-straight conference title, their fourth-straight section title and to get back to the state tournament. Hastings placed third at the state tournament the last two seasons.
By: Chad Richardson, The Hastings Star-Gazette
The goals are the same, but many of the faces are different for this year’s Hastings High School softball team.
The Raiders graduated 11 players from last year’s team, but the Raiders are hoping to earn their third-straight conference title, their fourth-straight section title and to get back to the state tournament. Hastings placed third at the state tournament the last two seasons.
“We’re definitely shooting to be conference champs, and then section champs,” coach Dean Robinson said. “We want to get to the state tournament for the fourth year in a row. The girls now it’s not going to be handed to us. They will have to work hard. With losing 11 seniors, we have a lot of work to do and a lot of fundamentals to learn. We’ll have to get better to reach those goals.”
While heading into last season almost every spot was locked up by an experienced player, that won’t be the case this year.
“There will be a few positions this year where people are working every single day of the week to try to earn a spot,” Robinson said. “It’s nice to have those girls battling back and forth. I told them that just because they might start out on junior varsity, it doesn’t mean they are going to stay there. I can move them up whenever we need them.”
A strong group of freshmen dominated play as eighth-graders, and they will all be moved up to compete on the sophomore team this year.
Captains for the girls are Treya Connell, Brit Robinson, Kaitlin Stark and Lori Bauer.
This will be Connell’s fifth year on varsity, and her fourth as a starter. She’s been one of the team’s top pitchers and this year has the No. 1 job.
“She’ll be our premier pitcher, for sure,” Robinson said. “She’s got the experience. The speed. The location. She’s got a good mix of pitches and she can fool the batters and keep them guessing. She’s strong. Very focused and very determined.”
Connell excels at the plate, too.
“She’s very good at the plate,” Robinson said. “She’s going to have a huge year at the plate. She has a lot of power.”
Brit Robinson will play shortstop and will be a relief pitcher as needed.
She, too, is a fifth-year player and a fourth-year starter. She was a designated hitter as an eighth-grader. She is the coach’s daughter.
“She’s got power at the plate and she is just a good, consistent hitter,” Robinson said. “She’s got a balanced mindset and has a lot of game experience. She’s one of our better baserunners, even though she isn’t our fastest runner. She see tendencies and weaknesses and takes advantage of that.”
Stark will play in right field again this year.
She is a two-year starter and is a junior.
“She’s got a great eye at the plate,” Robinson said. “There are so many times she’ll have two strikes on her and she’ll end up walking. That’s one of the things that sticks out – just how patient she is at the plate. She makes the pitchers throw her pitch.”
Bauer got some starts last season at third and will be there this year. She is a junior.
“She’s going to be real consistent at third base,” Robinson said. “We need to get her bat going in the lineup. She’s going a lot better here in practice. Having a year under her belt will help the nerves go away. She’ll find her groove at the plate. She has a lot of power.”
Two players are battling for playing time as catchers.
They are Rachel Thomas and Kaylynn Johnson.
Thomas is a freshman and Johnson is a sophomore.
“They’re both doing really well in practice right now,” Robinson said. “It’s going to be a fun battle. One may win our, or we could go back and forth. Whoever steps up will be playing.”
Stef Wical should be holding down first base. She is a senior and started last year as a designated hitter.
“She just had a great year at the plate,” Robinson said. “She was real solid in clutch situations. We’re expecting a big year from her at the plate and also at first.”
Second base is up in the air. It looks like it will come down to either Michaela Mills or Kelsey Nelson.
No decisions have been made yet in left field.
In center, it looks like Hailey Lundquist is the frontrunner.
Courtney VanDeVelde is a freshman who will pitch for the junior varsity and will probably see some time at the varsity, too.
Shelby Wassink is a freshman who will play shortstop when Brit Robinson pitches.
Seniors Teresa McCullen and Victoria Croucher will also be vying for playing time.
Shelby Wassink, a senior, is the team’s manager.
In the Suburban East Conference, Robinson expects to see Forest Lake be one of the top teams. Stillwater and Roseville will also be good.
“It’s going to be another good year in the conference,” he said. “That really helps us in sections. Having a strong conference schedule really helps us be prepared for the section tournament.”