In the last five seasons, the Central softball team has made it to the section quarterfinals three times. In the last 10 years, the Raiders have finished second or third in the Minnesota River Conference at least five times.
“It’s time that we take the next step,” Raiders head coach Jon Lambrecht said.
With consistently strong statistics and records, Lambrecht believes 2013 could be the year for Raider softball to break through that ceiling and reach the top of both the conference and the section.
“I honestly believe this group is something special,” he said.
In 2012, the Raiders finished third in the MRC, and held an overall record of 17-7. Of those seven losses, five were by just one run. And even though they graduated six seniors, including All-Conference athletes Afton Wolter and Megan Schmitz, the Raiders are ready for 2013.
This season, the Crusaders return seven starters. Junior Natalie Stockman returns to the pitching mound for Central after a stellar sophomore season, in which she threw over 67 innings totaling 83 strikeouts and an ERA of 2.17. She was the team’s No. 3 batter and hit a team-high .657, including seven home runs and 15 doubles. Without argument, Lambrecht said Stockman is one of the best pitchers in the conference and among the best hitters in the state.
Also back is senior All-Conference athlete Brooke Willemsen, who set a new school record in 2012 with eight home runs. She batted .491 and tallied 41 RBIs.
All-Conference Honorable Mention sophomore Kaylie Brazil will be the team’s leadoff hitter this season, while sophomore catcher Megan Miller, junior right fielder Kayla Leonhardt, senior third baseman Brooke Raether, and senior first baseman Tracy George also return.
“We’ve got a lot of experience and a lot of starters,” Lambrecht said. “We’re going to have a really strong team.”
With his strong hitters this season, Lambrecht said the lineup will be “dangerous.”
The Raiders core group of players aren’t just spring softball athletes, but play year round, which could help bolster the team’s successes this season. Lambrecht hopes that this season is the one to break through and win the MRC.
“I fully expect us to contend for the MRC and don’t expect us to collect too many losses,” he said.
Newcomers to the varsity squad this season include left fielder sophomore McKayla Lobitz and juniors Anna Willems and Abby Forner.
Most of the team’s in the MRC are formidable contenders this year, including LeSueur-Henderson, Jordan, Belle Plaine, and Tri-City United.
“We can’t afford to take anybody lightly,” Lambrecht said.
Season potential aside, the team’s goals are humble.
“We’re going to take it at bat by at bat, inning by inning,” Lambrecht said. “Good things happen to teams with good mind sets.”
He added that the girls are motivated and the team has been headed in this direction for years. But Lambrecht remains rather mum about the team’s true potential.
“We’ve got a lot of hills to climb before we get anywhere special,” he said, which includes battling through Section 2AA with teams like Belle Plaine, St. Peter, Waseca, Maple River, and Holy Family.
Contact Melissa Marohl at email@example.com