Team: Waconia softball
Head coach: Audra Lehrke
Assistant coaches: Bergen Pickett, Katie Koegh, and Wayne Trapp
Conference: Wright County
Section: Class AAA, Section 2
2013 finish: Waconia finished the 2013 season with a 10-8 record. The Wildcats finished second in their division of the Wright County Conference and were seeded No. 8 for sections. They lost to Chaska in the play in round of the Section 2AAA tournament, ending the season. As a team, the Wildcats batted .297 in 2013 and had a total on base percentage of .365. The Wildcats graduated just three seniors in All-Conference first baseman Jaci Reinke, second baseman Ashley Pannier, and pinch runner Bianca Lenz.
All-Conference players Haley and Kiela DeVlaeminck return as seniors this season. Haley DeVlaeminck had the team’s third highest batting average in 2013 and was also named to the All-Section team, while Kiela DeVlaeminck led the Wildcats from the pitching mound.
All-Conference Honorable Mention catcher Kenzie Clouse also returns, along with 2013 Honorable Mention winners Nicole Groeneveld and Jordyn Goldschmidt. Groeneveld led the Wildcats at the plate last season with a .417 batting average. Goldschmidt, who was also an All-Section winner last season, returns to her third base position.
“We do have our top hitters back,” head coach Audra Lehrke said. “We have our pitcher and our catcher, which is always nice to have… we’re excited.”
Key newcomers: Freshman Lexi Kretsch, who threw 17 innings for the Wildcats last season as an eighth grader, will become the ‘Cats No. 2 pitcher behind DeVlaeminck this season. Junior Kia Pankey returns from injury and sophomore Emily Anderson will step in to cover the shortstop position.
“They’ll be nice adds to the team this year,” Lehrke said.
Teams to beat: Delano and 2013 state tournament team Orono are among the top teams for the Wildcats in their pursuit of a Wright County Conference title.
As one of the smallest schools in Section 2AAA, teams like Prior Lake, Mankato East and West, and Eden Prairie will certainly be teams to keep an eye on.
“We’re in a tough section,” Lehrke said.
She said one of the Wildcats’ strengths this season will be speed on the bases, hopefully leading to more stolen bases and runs scored.
Goals: The team has set a variety of goals this season, both on and off the field.
“They really want conference this year,” Lehrke said. “I do think we do have a shot at the conference.”
The last time the Wildcats won the WCC was a decade ago in 2004. Beyond the WCC title chase, the Wildcats have high hopes of playing in a section final game. On the game-to-game scale, they want to reduce mental errors during the game.
Team chemistry is on the list, but is something that this year’s Wildcats are already succeeding at, being a close knit group, according to Lehrke.
“It’s a great group of girls,” she said.
First games: The Wildcats are scheduled to begin the season April 8 when they host Hutchinson, but the season is more likely to begin the following week when they host Delano April 15. The Wildcats will also be at the Mankato West tournament April 12.
Contact Melissa Marohl at email@example.com