Team: Waconia softball
Coach: Audra Lehrke
Assistant coaches: Bergen Pickett, Ashley Westphal, Wayne Trapp, and Terri Bessire
Mgr: Nicole Neumann
Conf.: Wright County
2012 finish: Last season, the Wildcats finished 15-10 overall. With a 11-7 conference record, Waconia tied for third with Holy Family Catholic while Orono and Delano topped the WCC. Orono went on to finish third in the Class 3A state tournament.
The Wildcats played consistently well throughout the season, stringing together more than three consecutive losses. Waconia breezed through the first rounds of the Section 2AAA tournament by defeating Eden Prairie and Mankato West. The Wildcats were later eliminated by Prior Lake and Mankato East. The Cougars of East would go on to finish fourth at state.
Key losses: Last year’s squad saw the departure of six seniors, including Division II recruited shortstop Sami Schnyder, third baseman Krissy Rademacher, and outfielders Lydia Long, Ashley Samuelson, and Cassi Miller.
Key returnees: Returning to the lineup this season are pitchers Kiela DeVlaeminck and Kaylee Vanderhoff, first baseman Jaci Reinke, second baseman Ashley Pannier, and catcher Kenzie Clouse, among others.
Key newcomers: Filling holes left behind by departing seniors is always hard, but Lehrke has confidence in her new varsity regulars. Sophomores Jordyn Goldschmidt and Madi Heckmann will cover third base and short stop, while Lehrke is still looking to move up a few more team members from junior varsity. She said she is excited for this season.
“We’re definitely excited for lots of juniors and sophomores on varsity this year,” Lehrke said.
Teams to beat: When it comes to teams to beat, Lehrke and the Wildcats are gunning for last season’s top two WCC finishers: Orono and Delano. In tough Section 2AAA that boasts schools much larger than Waconia, Lehrke said every team is going to be a challenge, but especially has her eyes set on Prior Lake, Mankato East, and Mankato West.
Goals: The whole team is behind Lehrke as far as goals are concerned this season: to win the conference and go to state.
Lehrke said winning the conference is not so much a goal for the team as it is an expectation. In order to reach their goals, the Wildcats will continue to use the same coaching and playing strategies that they have in the past, fueled by great attitudes on the team, according to Lehrke.
“This group of girls has really good team camaraderie,” she said.
First games: The Wildcats are scheduled to begin the season on the road at Hutchinson (April 9), Mankato West (April 13), and Delano (April 16). They will host their home opener on April 18 against defending WCC champion Orono.
Contact Melissa Marohl at email@example.com