CHS softball starts strong, wins tourney

Junior Natalie Stockman, shown pitching against Tri-City United, now has a 3-0 record. (NYA Times photos by Adam Gruenewald)
Junior Natalie Stockman, shown pitching against Tri-City United, now has a 3-0 record. (NYA Times photos by Adam Gruenewald)

The Central High School softball team is off to a strong start to the season, opening with four wins this past week.
The Raiders swept a Thursday doubleheader at home against Minnesota River Conference opponent Tri-City United, 10-1 and 11-1 in six innings, before traveling to Monticello for a four-team tournament Saturday and defeating Willmar, 12-4, and the hosts, 8-6.
CHS got off to a great start against the Raiders, plating two runs in the first inning. Kayla Leonhardt got a single, Natalie Stockman got on with a fielder’s choice and then Brooke Willemsen hit a 2-run home run to left.
Head coach Jon Lambrecht, in his 11th year, said he was pleased with his team’s beginning.
“With TCU in our first game and both teams being limited in how much time spending outside and the strange spring, we really just wanted to get ahead right away and put the pressure on them,” he said. “It’s real quick two runs that will deflate our opponent… That was a message and basically we went on from there to roll.”
Offensively, Willemsen also went 3-for-4 with three runs scored, three RBIs, a double and two home runs.
“She really set the tone, picking up where she left off last year,” said Lambrecht. “As a #4 hitter, I don’t know if there is a better one in our entire class. I think she’s special and she’s got power.”
Also, Leonhardt went 3-for-4 with a run scored and a double and McKayla Lobitz went 2-for-4 with a run scored and a RBI.
“Both of these girls have worked extremely hard to get proficient in the slap hitting game and, in my opinion, they make a big difference in our lineup,” said Lambrecht.
Stockman pitched the complete game, striking out eight and giving up one walk and five hits and an unearned run.
In game two against TCU, CHS scored four runs in the first highlighted by a RBI-double by Stockman and a run-scoring single by Willemsen. Tracy George later added a run-scoring single as well.
Stockman went the distance again, giving up one earned run, three hits and two walks while striking out nine.
Offensively, Stockman went 3-for-4 with three runs scored, four RBIs and three doubles; Willemsen went 3-for-4 with two runs scored, two RBIs and a stolen base; George went 2-for-3 with two RBIs and a double; and Brooke Raether went 1-for-3 with a double and a run scored.
Against Willmar, CHS scored one run in the second inning and two in the third, before opening the game up with a six-run fifth inning which made it 9-2. They later plated three more in the seventh.
Offensively, Stockman went 3-for-5 with two runs scored, four RBIs and a home run while Willemsen went 2-for-5 with three runs scored and Raether went 2-for-4. The Raiders also converted two suicide squeezes successfully.
“That is awesome to have the ability to execute,” she said. “Our hitting for power and our ability to play small ball puts us in a pretty elite category.”
Lambrecht said Stockman was feeling a little sore, so she pitched only five innings, giving up one earned run on five hits and two walks while striking out seven.
Willemsen pitched the last two innings, giving up five hits and two runs while striking out one.
Willemsen also took the mound in the final game against Monticello, who had defeated Sartell St. Steven, 10-0. She went the distance, striking out four and giving up seven hits, three earned runs and five walks.
“Natalie was and is our number one pitcher,” said Lambrecht. “When she needs a break, now we know Willemsen can handle it. And she certainly answered the question quite well.”
Offensively, Stockman, as the designated player, went 4-for-5 with four RBIs and two doubles. Kaylie Brazil went 3-for-5 with two runs scored and an RBI and Lobitz and willemsen both recorded two hits for the Raiders.
“We only lost four games last year, so I don’t expect to lose too many,” said Lambrecht. “I think this is what the program has come to expect. We don’t lose often and… we should be one of the best teams in our conference and we should be in the conversation, at least, as one of the top four, five, six teams in our section.”