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St. Anthony Village senior Mary-Clare Couillard leads one of the state’s top softball programs in myriad ways.
As a left-handed hitter in the Huskies’ leadoff or the No. 2 spot, Couillard got on base with 50 hits last spring. As the shortstop, she said, she is “kind of the captain of the defense along with the pitcher and the catcher.”
Finally, as a senior, Couillard hopes to reach her third Class 2A state tournament in four seasons. St. Anthony Village was the state runner-up last season.
“Coming into the softball season, everybody kind of knows softball has a reputation for being successful,” Couillard said. “And we’re all just crazy about softball. We love playing it and that really goes into why we are successful year after year.
Couillard spoke to Star Tribune reporter David La Vaque about being a rare female athlete who transitioned from baseball to softball, the pains of losing the title game last season and what the Huskies can take from the experience.
Q: Going back to the loss in the championship game, what can you gain from that adversity?
A: We were one out away from winning. That was a rough one. But it was really good for our program to be in the championship game to begin with. It just shows how hard we worked to get there. None of us were too happy about losing but you can’t be too disappointed about finishing second in the state.
Q: What do remember about your feelings coming in to the program as a freshman?
A: I just remember I was really nervous. It was a lot of hard work and everyone on the team had high expectations. I really wanted to help make those expectations reality.
Q: You also played varsity volleyball and basketball? Where did softball fit in when you were growing up? Was it your first love or did you start playing it later than volleyball and basketball?
A: You know, I actually grew up playing Little League baseball. I never really liked it. I was the only girl on the team and it just wasn’t that fun. I switched to softball the summer between seventh and eighth grade. Coming into high school is when I really started liking softball. My freshman year was so much fun it just became my favorite.
Q: You hear about girls who grow up playing team sports with boys and say doing so made them a lot better. Has that been your experience?
A: I think that definitely applies to me. You know how girls have the stereotype of throwing like a girl? That wasn’t really an option for me. I think I really got the fundamentals down playing baseball.
Q: Did you like the game of softball any more or less than baseball?
A: I really found softball to be much better for me. It’s so much more fast-paced. The bases are shorter. It was hard adjusting to the bigger ball when I was fielding but besides that I liked the transition.
Q: Looking at the championship game boxscore, I count three players who were in the lineup and two players who were in supporting roles that are back this spring. So you have some experience. What are your expectations this year?
A: We don’t have much experience but I think everyone is hungry to prove themselves and show they deserve a spot on the field. That competition will be good for us. I think every player can feel it when they walk into practice. Everyone knows we’re here to work hard and be successful.
David La Vaque • 612-673-7574